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How should we grow Rochester’s bike infrastructure? Let’s ask the data.

Guest blog by Nate August (Data Scientist & Graduate, University of Rochester) and Doug Kelley (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester)

The year 2022 could be a watershed for active transportation in the Rochester region. The City of Rochester is writing a new Active Transportation Plan to update and extend its existing Bicycle Master Plan (completed in 2011). Meanwhile, Monroe County is writing its first-ever Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Both documents will lay out a vision and set priorities to guide transportation policy for years or decades. Their recommendations will literally be made concrete in communities’ sidewalks, bike paths, bus stops, and roads. Smart planning can improve equity and sustainability in everybody’s transportation – and can be empowered by data-driven insights.

Sharrows in Rochester

This spring, our team of graduate students and faculty at the University of Rochester’s Goergen Institute for Data Science, in partnership with the City of Rochester, set out to make data-driven recommendations for one key enabler of active transportation, the City’s bike infrastructure. We drew on a recent scientific study of bike networks in 62 other cities around the world, coauthored by researchers at the University of Rochester and the IT University of Copenhagen. We selected 86 points of interest around the City and calculated many thousands of routes among them, each along existing bikeways and streets, then located the street segments that currently lack bike infrastructure but frequently are part of the calculated routes. Those are places where new infrastructure would carry the most bike traffic and could most quickly improve users’ experiences of Rochester’s bike network. Here are the ten segments most important for bike transportation in Rochester, according to our analysis:

    • Monroe Avenue between Culver Road and Howell Street
    • Elmwood Avenue between Mount Hope Avenue and S. Goodman Street
    • Driving Park Avenue between La Grange Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • Joseph Avenue between Cumberland Avenue and Norton Street
    • A connection between North Street and Central Park, either Davis and Scio Streets or Portland Avenue
    • State Street between Andrews Street and Smith Street
    • Smith Street between Lake Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • South Clinton Avenue between Gregory Street and East Broad Street
    • Stone Street between East Broad Street and East Main Street
    • Saint Paul Street between East Main Street and Andrews Street

Our data-driven recommendations agree well with intuition and ongoing community conversation. Many of these street segments are also among the ten most obvious gaps in Rochester’s bike network, according to Reconnect Rochester’s Mind the Gap campaign. Many were recommended for upgraded bike infrastructure in the Rochester 2034 blueprint for growth and development, adopted by City Council in 2019. When different people using different methods tackle the same problem and find similar solutions, it’s a good sign that those could be the right solutions for the community – great minds think alike!

To learn more about the results and analysis that led to our recommendations, check out the interactive map below. It shows the data-driven recommendations along with existing bike infrastructure and the points of interest. You can pan, zoom, and toggle the layers. Altogether, these new segments span just eight miles (13 km) – short enough to be built rapidly and at low cost. As the map shows, they would link disjointed parts of Rochester’s existing bike network and connect it to more neighborhoods, bringing transportation equity to more residents.

Once these ten key segments have bike-friendly infrastructure, further construction would bring further improvements, and we used the same sort of analysis to ask what should come next. The animation below shows what the Rochester bike network could look like as infrastructure is added in 12-mile increments up to 60 miles. According to our analysis, communities are best served by prioritizing dense connections in the City center along with selected arterial connections to outlying areas.

Suggested bike connections in Rochester

There’s more good news when we rate the impacts of these recommendations in terms of directness. If you’re biking from, say, the Public Market to the downtown library, the directness of your route is the ratio of the actual distance you pedal to the distance as the crow flies. A more direct route is quicker and more efficient. By averaging over all the routes among all the points of interest, the directness of a whole bike network can be calculated. The scientific study found, surprisingly, that building new infrastructure during the early part of a bike network’s development can actually make directness worse because new neighborhoods are at first connected only by tortuous routes. But the good news for Rochester is that our strong foundation of roughly 75 miles of existing protected bikeways, bike boulevards and bike paths allows us to achieve steadily increasing directness. Here, bike routes will tend to get straighter and more direct with each new infrastructure project, as long as projects are chosen sensibly.

Our analysis is all about connecting points of interest, so the results depend strongly on how those points are chosen. We started with the City of Rochester Commercial Corridor Business Data, published as part of the 2034 Plan, which tabulates 1800 locations. By looking for clusters of nearby places, we reduced that long list to 86 points of interest, which constitute parks, museums, convenience stores, schools, and other businesses. We checked to be sure that the points didn’t unfairly favor any of the City’s four quadrants or areas with higher median income. In fact, we repeated our analysis with different points of interest, chosen with a preference for serving underprivileged neighborhoods and combined the results for our final recommendations. We’ve worked hard to make recommendations that promote equity and serve all residents.

Of course, recommendations alone aren’t enough. Concrete improvements to Rochester’s bike network will require, well, concrete – as well as public will. You can help make these recommendations reality. Use this interactive map to mark assets, opportunities, and concerns that should be considered in the Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Respond to the community survey for Rochester’s Active Transportation Plan. Encourage your community leaders to prioritize bike and pedestrian infrastructure, especially when they think about big projects like ROC the Riverway and the Inner Loop North Transformation.

Kids ride on a bike path in Rochester

You can also dig deeper into our analysis by reading the full report or adapt our tools and methods to other communities by downloading our analysis code. A similar study of Monroe County would be invaluable and would be easier now that we’ve added much of Rochester’s bike infrastructure to OpenStreetMap.

With more data and analytical processing power available now than humankind has ever before known, our society is in a position to devise and execute truly excellent plans for active transportation networks. Let’s make the most of the opportunity.

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Bike Week 2022

The cycling season in Rochester continues with Bike Week 2022, spanning two consecutive weekends from May 13 to 22 and offering cycling events for all ages and levels of expertise.

Example of a Bike Week ride
The purpose is to celebrate biking in Rochester and expand the use of bikes as practical, daily transportation. With many people taking up biking during the pandemic, Bike Week welcomes new riders and demonstrates the great community and infrastructure available to cyclists in Rochester.
Bike Week is put together by Reconnect Rochester but is truly a grassroots effort in that each event is organized individually. Information for the rides is below, along with a specific contact for each ride.

Friday, May 13

7:45pm: Light Up the Night Ride (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride to kick off Bike Week begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 14

9:00am-2:00pm: Bike Sale (10 Flint Street)

R Community Bikes will have a good selection of ready-to-go bikes along with a huge selection of “project bikes” that need some TLC. They have no children’s bikes or 24″ bikes. Payment can be made by cash, PayPal or checks. Please note that this sale is at their Flint Street location, NOT their Hudson Ave location.

10:00am: George Eastman Bike Tour (900 East Avenue)

See Rochester in a new way. A nod to George Eastman’s own love of cycling, the George Eastman Bike Tour will take you to ten different locations related to the life and work of this pioneer of popular photography and famous Rochesterian. You will see buildings and sites that shaped Eastman’s life—or were in turn shaped by him. $25. Must register and pay beforehand to participate: eastman.org/biketours

Sunday, May 15

10:00am-11:30am: ROC Freedom Riders Kick Off Ride (East High School, 1801 E. Main Street)

Join ROC Freedom Riders for its 2022 season kick-off ride to support a new Black-owned fitness center founded by ROC Freedom Riders captain, Lakeisha Smith, owner of Inspired By Fitness. Meet at East High School parking lot for a ride around the neighborhood. This ride includes a tour of Inspired By Fitness and a fun warmup/cooldown activity facilitated by Lakeisha Smith. Contact: RocFreedomRiders@gmail.com

10:30am: Sunday Funday (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court Street)

Join Rochester Bicycle Time! for a leisurely cruise around our fine city during Bike Week. Explore fun hidden spots that will give you a different perspective on Rochester and possibly learn some history as well. Meetup at the park water fountain at 10:30am and rollout at 11am. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Monday, May 16

Nothing currently scheduled. Check back closer to this date for any updates!

Tuesday, May 17

7:30am-9:00am: Bike to Work Day Pit Stop, University of Rochester edition (Elmwood cycletrack, across from the main hospital entrance)

Our region’s largest employer is a wonderful bike destination! Situated along the Genesee River and near the Erie Canal, you’re sure to encounter some scenic spots along your route. The University of Rochester earned a silver “Bicycle Friendly University” award in 2018 and had Rochester’s most used bikeshare station during Pace’s tenure. To thank people cycling to the River and Medical campuses on May 17, they will have snacks to share in a safe manner. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with their staff and Reconnect Rochester volunteers. Contact: Tracey Austin, taustin7@parking.rochester.edu

6:00pm-8:30pm: On-Bike Smart Cycling Class, presented by Reconnect Rochester (Public Market, 280 N. Union St)

Many people like the idea of biking more, but don’t feel safe mixing with traffic. In this class, students will learn the rules of the road and proper roadway position. We’ll examine safe cycling techniques and ways to make cycling easier and more enjoyable. The class will incorporate classroom learning, parking lot maneuvering drills and a short group ride navigating different traffic scenarios together. Cost: $25 per person. Must register and pay beforehand to participate.

Wednesday, May 18

7:00pm: National Ride of Silence (Liberty Pole, Liberty Pole Way)

Join Black Girls Do Bike Rochester and Monroe County cyclists in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. This slow 8-mile ride with a police escort aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and government officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. Registration starts at 5:30pm. Ride will commence around 7pm after ceremony. Contact: Kecia McCullough BGDBRochNY@gmail.com

Thursday, May 19

6:45pm: Rochester Bicycle Time! (Parcel 5, 285 E. Main Street)

RBT’s mission is simple: All riders, regardless of skill level. They meet at Parcel 5 every Thursday around 6:30pm and start rolling at 7pm. Expect a relaxed cruise around the City with an improvised route. This ride is a great way to know how to get around by bike. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Friday, May 20

6:30am-10:00am Bike to Work Day pit stop (Union Street cycletrack at East Avenue)

If you’ve never tried biking to work, this is the day! Rochesterians are very fortunate to have an average 4.1-mile commute to work, which is about 25 minutes by bike at a casual pace. To thank people cycling to work on May 20th, Reconnect Rochester will have munchies to share and celebrate those who get to work on two wheels. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 21

MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Festival

The MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Criterium is back! This is the second race of the all new American Criterium Cup in the heart of beautiful downtown Rochester. Bring the family downtown for relentlessly high-paced racing on a short closed loop course that gives spectators plenty of access to the action! Grab a beer from the Rohrbach Beer Garden and grub from the array of Food Trucks! Details: rochestercrit.com

**Saturday, May 28** (postponed from 22nd)

10:00am-1:00pm Keeping It Classy Cycling Club’s Flower Pedal Populaire (Roundhouse Shelter, Genesee Valley Park)

Don your favorite outfit, decorate your bike, and pack up your picnic baskets! Meetup at the Genesee Valley Roundhouse shelter at 10am for coffee and a gracious welcome. Kickstands up at 11am for a short, leisurely group ride. Bring your mom and dad. Bring your Grammy and Grandpa. Bring the kids and dog! Just remember to keep it classy! Contact: Dan Slakes, danos.711@gmail.com

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Floshare: “EVening” the Playing Field

Guest blog by Bree-Ana Dukes, Floshare Program Manager at Mobility Development Operations & Board Member at Reconnect Rochester

According to the 2018 Transportation and Poverty in Monroe County commissioned by Reconnect Rochester, “most households (88%) in Monroe County have access to a vehicle (74% in Rochester). This leaves 12% of households in the county (35,000 households), and 26% of households in the city (22,000 households) without access to a vehicle,” about a third of all city of Rochester households.

Flower City Carshare (Floshare) is a partnership between Mobility Development Operations (MDO) and the City of Rochester and is the first electric vehicle (EV) car sharing program in New York. The carsharing program targets chronically economically distressed areas and neighborhoods where there are low rates of car ownership.

Happy Floshare Customers

“We had a BLAST with the car. My son told everyone everywhere we went that the car we were driving was ‘TOTALLY ELECTRIC MAN.’ Thanks again for helping me get this started, I cannot wait to rent it again.” (Rachael Boelens)

The lack of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in many of Rochester’s neighborhoods echoes the historical disenfranchisement of marginalized communities and the disparities that have resulted from centuries of disinvestment. Carsharing services alone cannot solve the systemic issues around transportation for the poorest segments of the City’s population, but community-controlled EV carsharing will add a new mobility option to the transportation landscape for those without access to a personal vehicle. Through intentional collaboration with community based organizations, the transportation sector, and social service agencies addressing these EVSE gaps, Floshare hopes to better connect residents to the city and surrounding areas.

Carsharing means community residents have access to a network of electric vehicles located in close proximity to them everyday of the year at any time of the day. This certainly won’t solve our transportation issues, but while funding is on the table we have to consider the lack of car ownership and how marginalized communities are able to benefit from the EV movement from an economic, social, and public health perspective. Much can be debated about the state of transportation within Monroe County, but the fact is that accessibility is not equal for those historically disenfranchised, specifically, for Black and Indigenous people of color.

Targeting EV Investment to the Disenfranchised

Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations are a huge topic of national conversation following the Biden-Harris Administration’s release of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Guidance. States will be responsible for allocating $5 billion toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure with the goal to “put the United States on a path to a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030 and ensure a convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable charging experience for all users.”

The Administration’s Justice 40 initiative commits to allocate at least 40% of all funding and investments to “disadvantaged communities”. This is an important distinction because history has shown that without intentional investment in marginalized communities, subpar or disinvestment will continue to widen the racial inequality gap. Some opponents to this commitment will cite the lack of EV ownership as a reason to not invest in marginalized communities, but that is precisely why it is important to do so. Arguments about whether certain communities deserve targeted investments are tired! It is this type of rhetoric that continually blocks BIPOC from opportunities to benefit from social and economic development and revitalization.

A conversation that would be more productive is one that acknowledges the root causes of “carless” homes as well as the inability to afford an EV as outcomes of systemic racism. Centuries of genocide, slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, redlining, and a host of other discrimanatory acts continue to plague our organizations and institutions of governance. So, we must never forget what’s ever present in the zeitgeist that makes commitments like Justice 40 necessary.

Sign Up for Floshare’s Expanding System in ROC

The Floshare program provides access to fully electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for a low cost rate of $5/hour or $40/day. The program has been beta testing since September 2021, with locations at the Rochester Public Market and St. Mary’s Campus and more locations coming soon! About two dozen residents have gone through orientation to test the vehicles and its technology, in preparation for a launch event this summer. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up by downloading the Miocar Networks app.

Charging Floshare Vehicle
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Hey ROC, Mind the Gap!

In Rochester, bike riders have a lot to be grateful for: world-class trails, an average commute of 4.1-miles across mostly flat terrain, and a vibrant bike community. Something we need to work on, however, is the lack of connectivity in our bike network. Too often, road projects are done in a piecemeal fashion and little attention is paid to overall connectivity.

The new regional bike map from the Genesee Transportation Council shows just how fragmented our local bike network is. (Note: the map doesn’t consider sharrows on arterials as bike infrastructure). Reconnect Rochester wants to see continuous, non-interrupted, low-stress bicycle routes. As the City and County gear up for their Active Transportation Plans this year, we are advocating for “a fully connected spine of high-comfort bikeways” that can be built upon for years to come. When gaps are filled, ridership will increase and Rochester can eventually “level up” from bronze to silver in the rankings of Bike Friendly Communities.

With that in mind: Reconnect Rochester, in a play on words, is proud to present the first annual Mind The Gap vote campaign! We took a look and identified ten of the most obvious gaps in our bike network that, if filled, would be a huge connectivity improvement. 

Here’s where you come in, ROC cyclists. We want your vote! Take a look below at the locations we’ve nominated this year and tell us which gaps you think are the most important to fill.

The gap that receives the most votes will be declared the winner and Reconnect Rochester will give this segment special attention with our advocacy efforts. Specifically, we’ll approach the relevant municipality with our community support evidence in hand to make the case that it is a crucial gap to fill.

Some quick notes:

    • You’ll be able to cast votes for three gaps.
    • Think we missed something? There’s a fill-in-the-blank option that will help us with nominations for future years’ contests.
    • We didn’t nominate the Genesee Riverway Trail through downtown. The City is well aware of this obvious gap and through the ROC the Riverway initiative, is addressing it segment-by-segment as funding becomes available. (Someday we will have a continuous riverway trail through downtown to High Falls!)
    • Ideal nominations have somewhat comfortable biking on each end with a relatively short, awkward, or uncomfortable gap in the middle that can hopefully be remedied to have an enormous impact for a great number of riders.

(Ready to vote before reading on? We like the enthusiasm! Click here.)

Without further ado, here are this year’s nominations:

  1. EAST MAIN STREET BETWEEN UNION STREET AND DOWNTOWN The bike lanes between Union and Goodman are okay, though clearly not what was envisioned during the 2015 E. Main & Market District Plan. The cycletracks under construction further east between Goodman and Culver will be a huge step up. But once cyclists from the east side approach Union, reaching downtown is quite stressful due to the awkward 490 turn-off. Cyclists have to move left in the bike lane just as motorists next to them merge right to get on the Inner Loop. This weak spot – an intimidating tenth of a mile! – deters cyclists from what could otherwise be a decent bike corridor. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. ST. PAUL STREET FROM DOWNTOWN TO BREWER STREET Though there are bike lanes for much of this stretch, the Genesee Riverway Trail deserves better: Protected bike lanes on St. Paul Street from downtown to Brewer Street (or a tad bit further to Carthage Drive for those who don’t want to descend into the gorge only to ride back up), would open up this pride of Rochester to cyclists of all ages and abilities. As it is now, some bravery is required on St. Paul. This stretch is only one mile! Once cyclists reach Brewer Street, there’s comfortable biking up to Ontario Beach Park. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. WEST MAIN STREET FROM DOWNTOWN TO BULLS HEAD PLAZA Since 2015, Rochester cyclists have biked to Bulls Head Plaza on West Main Street to participate in the weekly Unity Rides. Though the ride itself is joyous and comfortable thanks to the escort, getting there is often a stressful experience. At the moment, there’s no bike infrastructure on West Main and motorist speeds are very high. From downtown to Bulls Head Plaza is only 7/10 of a mile! Fixing this stretch would also make biking to Susan B. Anthony house and Nick Tahou’s easier. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. MONROE AVENUE FROM CANTERBURY ROAD TO DOWNTOWN The City’s first bike boulevard was installed along Canterbury Road in 2015 to help cyclists approach downtown from Brighton and the southeast side. But once Canterbury ends at Monroe Ave, cyclists are forced to constantly meander left and right, in and out of bike lanes and sharrows all the way to Chestnut Street downtown. This stretch is only one mile. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. THE APPROACH TO MONROE COMMUNITY COLLEGE (HENRIETTA CAMPUS) Monroe Community College, our area’s largest institute of learning, is very uncomfortable to get to by bike. Though bike lanes have been installed on East Henrietta Road from Westfall south to 390, the bridge over 390 is terrifying. Students, faculty and staff approaching MCC from the north deserve a better approach. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. STATE STREET FROM ANDREWS STREET TO MORRIE SILVER WAY Trust us. Biking to Frontier Field is the best way to get to a Red Wings game. There’s ample, free bike parking right next to the gates and security guards are there the entire time – a huge deterrent to bike theft. When the game ends, you unlock your bike and ride. You’ll likely be most of the way home before those who drove get out of the congested parking lots nearby. Andrews Street is a wonderful east to west thoroughfare for cyclists, but once you get to State Street, you’re immediately uncomfortable. Steve Carter and Red Wings fans deserve better. The short stretch is only 3/10 of a mile! Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. “THE JOSANA TRAIL” A critical connection the City intends to make someday is between the Colvin Street bike boulevard and the soccer stadium, where the Plymouth bike boulevard continues north all the way to Kodak Park. This is especially important as this area sees the most cyclist-motorist collisions. The intended connection is via the abandoned railroad tracks and would be called the JOSANA Trail. Things always get complicated when CSX is involved, but if this gap wins the contest, perhaps it’ll give the City a sense of urgency in acquiring right of way and finding the funding to implement the planning work that’s already done. This segment of the trail is only a half mile. Jurisdiction: CSX (City of Rochester in the process of purchasing)
  1. THE APPROACH TO EAST AVENUE WEGMANS Biking to the East Avenue Wegmans and locking up your bike next to the front doors is often way more convenient than driving there and searching for a parking space. But Wegmans could certainly be more approachable by bike on each side. From the southwest, cyclists can bike along the comfortable Canterbury/Harvard bike boulevard to Colby Street. But once you get to East Avenue, that short 1/10 of a mile to Wegmans is quite busy. Surely something can be done in this area too to better connect the Harvard/Colby bike boulevard and Wegmans to the future bike boulevard across from Artisan Works on Marion Street that’ll go all the way up to Tryon Park. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT (East Avenue) and City of Rochester (Winton and Blossom)
  1. UNION STREET FROM EAST MAIN STREET TO THE PUBLIC MARKET Riders of all ages and abilities enjoy the new Union Street cycletrack, but its shortcoming is that it’s too short and doesn’t connect anywhere. Though no doubt it’ll extend and curve northwest someday as part of the Inner Loop North transformation, it would make a huge difference if dedicated bike infrastructure continued a half mile north to the Public Market. We know from our marker campaign that the market is a popular desired destination by bike, but that short stretch of Union Street north of Main is intimidating. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. ELMWOOD AVENUE FROM THE CITY LINE TO 12 CORNERS Rochester’s second cycletrack was installed along Elmwood Ave in 2020 to connect the University of Rochester Campus to College Town. In 2022 and ‘23, the cycletrack will be extended to the Highland Crossing multi-use Trail just across from the Al Sigl Center. In June 2021, it appeared that the further extension of the multi-use trail along Elmwood all the way to Twelve Corners was a sure thing, but the project has since stalled and it’s uncertain whether it’ll proceed. Brighton residents definitely deserve this low-stress bike connection to Rochester’s largest employment hub. Jurisdiction: Monroe County DOT

So, what do you think?

p.s. We got some of our ideas from you with the informal polling we’ve done around town. Thanks for sharing!

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THIS is Why: How a Multimodal Lifestyle Makes You Immune to Rising Gas Prices

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

I didn’t start biking to work because gas was too expensive. I did it because I had this evolving sense of the world based around the central premise that the mode of transport I had spent my whole life worshiping was the very thing that was in conflict with everything I loved.

When I was 18, my friends and I made a stupid little club called “The Anti-Carpoolers Of America.” I made and printed badges on my computer, featuring a minivan with a slash through it, which we all taped to our dashboards. I purchased a brand new 2000 Honda Civic EX and after the Fast And The Furious series came out, I began modding out my ride with things like a cat-back exhaust, a cold-air intake, performance rims and tires and a bevy of visual additives that announced to the world that I was an immature kid who had no idea how to spend his money. I was born in Chicago and I loved public transit, but I hadn’t yet put together the whole “cars destroyed public transit” narrative that I know and tout today.

My buddy bought a Subaru Impreza WRX, maxing out his financial capacity just to have a car that made him the unquestioned alpha in our group of friends. A base model Impreza, a Dodge Neon with a cold air intake and a “grape fruit shooter” muffler, a lightly-modded out Nissan Maxima, my Honda Civic… they all became financed expressions of ego that propelled all of us forward as we tried to express ourselves in a “keeping up with the Jones’s” automotive mentality. I prided myself on the fact that I drove 100,000 miles in four years. To put that in perspective, I have driven approximately 100,000 miles in the last fifteen years. It’s March 8th of 2022, and I have driven a total of 600 miles this year. And that’s only because the snow has kept me from using other forms of transportation as much as I would like.

Mobility independence
One of my first bike rides to work in 2014

But now, there is more incentive than ever for me to flex my human and electric powered micro-mobility options. As someone who owns 4 bikes, 1 ebike, a Onewheel, an electric skateboard, 2 kick scooters, 2 electric scooters, and more skateboards than I would like to admit, I have been an advocate of micro-mobility for nearly a decade. When promoting alternative transportation to the general population (and not just urbanists), I have typically tried to appeal to the intangible “feeling” of independence, as well as the daily exercise. To this point, gas has remained cheap enough that it was impractical to include fuel cost savings in my advocacy argument.

Obviously, this has changed quickly and drastically. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused gas prices to skyrocket toward record highs in the US and even higher in Europe. There has never been a time more ripe for a louder dialogue around human powered transportation, electric micro-mobility and public transit. While much of the country is blaming government for the regulation of fossil fuel drilling and delivery, people like myself continue to advocate for an alternative to our dependence on a single form of energy that is also tremendously damaging to our planet. True energy and mobility security does not come from greater access to a finite supply of oil, but rather a diversification of power sources, including human power.

Steven Senne/AP

In short, THIS is what all of us crazy cyclists, scooter riders, and electric micro-mobility junkies have been saying for a long time. At some point, a day like this was going to come, where the price of gas would literally make people hesitate before using their car for this or that. People have made choices — like buying a large vehicle or a house that’s 30 miles from their job — on the assumption that driving a car was always going to be affordable, despite the truth that at some point, fossil fuels would become scarce, prices would rise or circumstances would change. One of the central tenets of urbanism is simply that embracing density means we are not at the mercy of any of these variables.

As I’ve stated in the past, my wife and I live in an apartment that is just a few miles from each of our workplaces. I went years without a functional car, just recently splurging for a used compact car. Still, most days you’ll see me using a bike, a scooter or any number of other micro-mobility options for my commute and for running errands. Living a couple miles from Downtown Rochester also means we are closer to stores, shops and entertainment options. Literally, everything we need is within a few minute’s drive, a walk, a bike ride, etc.

This was a conscious decision and one we made because, among other reasons, we did not want to deal with the temporal or economic costs of living far away from our jobs and resources.

Pumping gas

So gas prices went up. I am almost completely unaffected. Nor are my friends that share my desire for mobility independence. Even my wife, who drives every day, is impacted far less than most because of our close proximity to everything, including her job. Because really, we don’t necessarily need to be anti-car to limit the impact of variables like gas prices on our weekly budgets. Simply living a “denser” lifestyle ensures that we have everything we need with fewer miles in between.

I’m not a market economist, and I am certainly no international relations expert… who knows where this terrible conflict happening in Ukraine will end, and what will happen as a result. Back home, the fact that our worst fear lies in rising gas prices just shows how detached we are with what is happening elsewhere on our planet. And even more trivial is the notion that we continue to rely on a single form of energy for a huge percentage of our day-to-day mobility.

Living closer to cities, using public transit and micro-mobility means that market fluctuations have less of an impact on our wallets. It means that we can choose how to move about, rather than relying on the car alone. While the automobile has always been a symbol of American freedom, a simple market shift based on events elsewhere in the world means that freedom can quickly turn into a financial hurdle that many are struggling to afford. THIS is why we urbanists advocate for a life less dependent on cars, and thus, on fossil fuels.

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40 Years Car-Free in the Neighborhood of the Arts

By Joseph Struble

In 1975 I bought my first (and last) car: a gold/tan Mazda RX-3 with white bucket seats and that intoxicating “new-car smell.” I also bought a pair of prescription sunglasses, aviator style, and I thought I was so cool driving back and forth to Graduate School in Richmond, VA, windows open in summer and blasting “Country Roads, Take Me Home” on the radio.

In 1979 I was back home in Rochester and newly wary of my car. It had an unwelcome trick of suddenly losing power, slowing down and coming to a stop, no matter where I was (even on some of those country roads!). Very disconcerting. It also took 10 minutes to warm up in winter and even then I could only start to roll with the choke full out, so it was like holding the reigns of a bucking bronco (though it was a Mazda) for a while thereafter.

A car parked in a parking lot

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I sold it and never looked back.

I did not get my driver’s license until I was 22 and out of college, so the aviator-glasses cool notwithstanding, I think I may have been inclined to be a non-driver early on.

And I well remember how living on St. John Fisher campus for my last 2 years thrilled me in its own small way: “There is everything I want here: friends, food, a pub, a library, Sunday Mass, famous lecturers and even bands come here, candlelight vigils in protest of the Vietnam war…OK the girls were one mile down the road on another campus, but still, this was my “happy place.”

So I simply grafted that formula for a varied and contented life onto the Park Avenue neighborhood, beginning in 1980.

I like to walk. People always tell me how healthy that is, but it is not really exercise, I think, unless you make it so (get your heart rate up, sweat, etc. – and for that, I used to jog and once even ran a marathon).

Walking is merely my mode of transportation [the action of transporting someone or something] and for me, that someone or something is me, myself and I.

I have a good 3-5 mile walking range in all four directions from my place on Strathallan Park and like my college campus, there is everything I want here: The Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman House (where I was employed for 26 years – a 12 minute walk each way), The Eastman Theatre, GEVA, Blessed Sacrament church. The Rochester Public Library – both Central and Monroe Avenue branches are in my range. I exercise at Harro East on Andrews Street, and love my early morning walk there as others are heading out to work.

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I check out a variety of breakfast and lunch places in my walking range, all staffed with friendly people: wife and husband Evinn and Bill at Crumpets; Will at Calabresella’s Subs; Ramon, Wilfredo, and Erica at Palermo’s in the Mercantile; Jason at POP ROC; and the nice folks at the café in the Art Deco Times Square Building.

Oh and there’s my German class meet-up at Spot Coffee or Matilda’s every Thursday.

I shop at the East and Winton Wegmans, carrying a backpack which $85 of groceries usually fits nicely in. I walk there, but if there are people at the corner bus stop when I leave, I sometimes take the bus home.

I can extend my walking to Pittsford Plaza and even to Charlotte, but it has to be on a beautiful day. Otherwise, either the Monroe and Lake bus gets me there.

A word about RTS. It’s convenient enough. I love the new 41 Culver/Goodman Crosstown bus. I tell people that in my lifetime (73 years) I count three good “bonus” things coming along: Cherry Coke, Milky Way Dark, and the #41 Crosstown bus.

I think I could be very happy living in Manhattan (if I had the income). So I go there often and I have made the trip variously by plane, train, bus, and as a passenger in a car. Amtrak is the best for me, I think. More opportunity for movement, a café car break, and the leisure to read and just think.

Then there are times when a car ride is more essential than just for a psychological boost. I’m glad I have friends with cars and it’s wonderful to hit the road and head out into the country and those wide-open, blue-sky spaces (vs. interestingly cluttered city ones). 

This puts me in the “riding shotgun” seat and for that, I am grateful to GPS, since my map-reading and directional skills are abysmal.

Once in 40 years of non-driving, I borrowed my brother’s car to go to a wedding. It’s true, that like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you never forget. But a lot of things had changed about a car – the door locks, the ignition, other unfamiliar gizmos. So it was dicey. Then there was the violent thunderstorm on the way home.

I worry sometimes that I am so out-of-practice and would be very reluctant to take the wheel in case of any emergency or merely to relieve a fatigued driver on one of those blue-sky rides. I have kept up my license and even became a member of the Automobile Club of America “just in case” but I never really want to drive again. That’s not so good.

I really have no knowledge of the cost of car ownership (but the folks at Reconnect Rochester do!). For a few years, I went to the Convention Center for the Auto Show and yes, the stickers were shocking.

But I do know that since 2000, I have had some disposable income used for 6 flights to Europe where I spent 2 weeks each in a major city. Next time, I hope to take the Queen Mary II across the pond (not as pricey as you might think).

Edinburgh, Scotland, my last big trip pre-pandemic
My last trip to Europe (pre-pandemic) was a two week excursion to Edinburgh.

Although I recycle and dislike seeing a dirty truck belching black smoke drive by, don’t consider me a climate activist. I simply think that living simply with everyday pleasures at hand has been a satisfying lifestyle for me.

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Hey Albany!

Last week, Reconnect Rochester went on a “Virtual Trip to Albany” to champion public transit and safe streets for Rochester residents (and all New Yorkers). We spent the day meeting with state legislators and their staff and having great conversations about what needs to be done to move towards our vision of a robust and equitable transportation network. We’re fortunate to have many allies in our State delegation to push for better multi-modal transportation across New York.

We’d like to shout out Reconnect Rochester Board members Victor Sanchez, Bill Collins, and Jason Partyka for devoting their time to the effort, and and huge thank you to all the legislative offices who took the time to meet with us: Assemblymembers Demond Meeks, Harry Bronson, Jennifer Lunsford, Sarah Clark, Josh Jensen, and William Magnarelli, and Senators Samra Brouk, Jeremy Cooney, and Tim Kennedy. Check out more screenshots from the day!

Read our asks for Albany legislators below. Wondering what YOU can do to advocate for better transportation for all New Yorkers? Check out the links below from our partners at the New York Public Transportation Association and the NYS Safe Streets Coalition.

NYPTA Take Action and Toolkit
NYS Safe Streets Coalition Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act


New York State 2022-23 Transportation Priorities

Public Transit:

RTS continues to be a vital service for our region as we recover from the pandemic. While COVID relief funds have helped to cover revenue loss and increased expenses, robust long-term, recurring funding will be necessary to grow and sustain the system. Governor Hochul has shown strong commitment to public transit, and we urge the Legislature to build upon those proposals in the final budget.

    1. Increase State Mass Transit Operating Assistance (STOA) for upstate transit systems by 36% ($49 million). The Governor’s Budget only proposes a 13% increase for upstate systems.
    2. Include $159.5 million annual funding level for non-MTA transit through the entire proposed 5-year capital program ($698 million 5-year total) in the final budget.
    3. Continue the STOA hold-harmless for formula systems impacted by pandemic ridership loss.
    4. Support Rider Representation (S3559A/A7822) – requires the appointment of a transit dependent and para-transit dependent representative on various transportation authorities.

Bicycle and Pedestrian (Active Transportation):

Pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities are on the rise, which is why Reconnect Rochester has been working with the NYS Safe Streets Coalition to prioritize legislation to address this silent epidemic. Consider sponsoring or co sponsoring the Crash Victims Rights & Safety Act (CVRSA) to make our streets safer:

    1. Statewide Speed Limit (S2021/A01007) – allow for lower life-saving speeds across New York State
    2. Sammy’s Law (S524/A4655) – allow for lower life-saving speeds limits in New York City
    3. Complete Streets Funding (S3897/A8936) – increase state funding where the municipality agrees to fund a complete street design feature
    4. Complete Streets Application (S8394/A08624) – require consideration of complete streets design for projects which receive federal or state funding
    5. Complete Streets Maintenance (S5130/A7782) – include complete street design features in resurfacing, maintenance, and pavement recycling projects
    6. Right to Safe Passage (S4529/A547) – require drivers pass bicyclists at a safe distance of min. 3 feet
    7. DMV Pre-Licensing (S1078A/A5084) – educate NY drivers about safely interacting with vulnerable road users
    8. Crash Victims Bill of Rights (S8152/A9152) – guarantee rights and a voice for crash victims and their loved ones in legal proceedings

In addition to the above legislative package, these are other bills related to bicyclists that we would encourage you to consider sponsoring or co-sponsoring:

    1. S920/A3104 – allow for what is known as an “Idaho Stop” which allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights like stop signs
    2. A8656 – repeal certain provisions of the vehicle and traffic law and would allow e-bikes to be ridden anywhere regular bikes can be ridden
    3. S3080 – establish the ride clean rebate program which would allow e-bikes and e-scooters to be eligible for a 50% rebate with a maximum of $1,100

Train and Long-Distance Bus:

Bus and train users tend to be lower income and people of color, and deserve equitable funding for their long-distance transportation that is comparable to the investments made in airline travel. Consider including funding for a bus terminal extension for the Louise Slaughter Rail Station in the new budget or when additional Federal funding is available. 

All Modes: 

Please sponsor or co-sponsor S4264A/A6967, the “Climate and Community Investment Act”, a Green New Deal for New York State. This would help create jobs and funding for carbon reduction and environmental justice programs.

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Welcoming New Energy on our Staff & Board

Reconnect Rochester kicked off the new year by ushering in new leadership and energy onto our staff team and Board of Directors.

James Dietz joined our dynamic and growing staff team that works day-in and day-out to improve mobility in our community. He’ll be spearheading our advocacy activities, expanding our community outreach, and running the Complete Streets Makeover and Rochester Street Films programs. Find out how James landed here and what inspires him in the message below.

At our Annual Meeting in January, Victor Sanchez was elected our new Board President, taking over from Renée Stetzer who will stay on as an active Board member. We also welcomed three new Board membersBree-Ana Dukes, Bo Shoemaker and Erick Stephens. Get to know them and what they bring to the table in the profiles below.

Welcome James, Bree-Ana, Bo & Erick! We consider ourselves very lucky to have this kind of talent join our work to champion transportation choices in Monroe County.


JAMES DIETZ

I’m so excited to be Reconnect Rochester’s new Advocacy and Outreach Manager! Originally from Buffalo, I moved to Rochester in 2015 to attend the U of R, where I obtained my BA in Political Science. It was during my time in undergrad that I moved off of campus and began to call Rochester my home. I sought out opportunities to work with community organizations, which led me to become an AmeriCorps VISTA shortly after graduating. I spent a very rewarding year working on housing and economic justice with City Roots Community Land Trust, and urban agriculture with Taproot Collective.

Not having a car of my own, I quickly learned to navigate taking the bus and riding my bike to get around. It made me realize not only how important a good, robust public transportation system is, but also how much better Rochester’s transportation infrastructure could be, especially for those whose car-free lifestyle isn’t a choice but rather a necessity. I remember the first time I found myself in the old abandoned subway tunnels thinking to myself, “Why would they ever get rid of this?” My hope is that the work I do with Reconnect Rochester will bring us closer to a vision of Rochester that is more equitable, healthy, and sustainable for everyone.


BREE-ANA DUKES

Bree-Ana is a Rochester native and serves as the Program Coordinator for Rochester’s electric carshare program, Floshare. Bree-Ana holds a Bachelor degree in Social Science Interdisciplinary and a Masters degree in Higher Education Administration. She brings passion and experience in advocating for a good quality of life and the welfare of societies through accessibility to healthy food, transportation, education, medical care, and housing. In her role at Floshare, Bree-Ana coordinates the operations and member services of Rochester’s first 100% electric vehicle carsharing service. Bree-Ana is honored to be serving on the board of Reconnect Rochester and most looking forward to have the opportunity to further serve and engage the multi-modal transportation interests of Rochester residents.

BO SHOEMAKER

Bo is an avid trail runner, road runner, history run leader, cyclist, and triathlete. After completing law school at Syracuse University College of Law, he has worked as an attorney for Monroe County, the regional appellate court in Rochester, New York City, and now, Genesee County. Bo lives in the North Winton Village neighborhood of Rochester. He is currently leading a segment-by-segment running exploration of The Crescent Trail, is well into planning for his next run through Rochester History Runs, and after several Covid-related delays, plans on running the New York City Marathon this coming November!

ERICK STEPHENS

Erick is the Parent Engagement Specialist for Healthi Kids at Common Ground Health. In this role, Stephens provides technical assistance and support to schools to strengthen and improve parent engagement efforts. He also works directly with parents training them on advocacy and connecting them to opportunities to impact policy, systems, and environmental change in schools. Erick served as a Youth Service Assistant at the Phillis Wheatley Branch Library in Rochester’s Southwest and was the Parent Liaison at James P.B. Duffy School #12, where he now volunteers and runs a program to help develop leaders at the school through mentoring.

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Top ten things we’re most proud of in 2021.

2021 is coming to a close. In the realm of transportation, this year brought a mix of positive progress and setbacks. At Reconnect Rochester, we strive to be innovative and to pivot fast when we see input opportunities to capitalize on, or mobility issues that need attention.

Despite the uncertainty and challenges of our times, we moved our mission forward with intensity. Below is “Top 10” list of accomplishments we’re most proud of this year.


TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2021
(In no particular order of importance.)

#10

Legislative Advocacy

In March, we made a virtual trip to Albany to champion public transit and safe streets for Rochester area residents (and all New Yorkers). In April & May, we made the rounds to meet with our federal legislators. Among other things, we asked for Phase 2 funding to build the station that long-distance bus riders deserve. Here’s our team meeting with staff from Senator Gillibrand’s office.

#9

More Cubes on the Ground

Thanks to the City of Rochester and many other people and partners (you know who you are), we installed 16 more fiberglass bus stop cubes in the 19th Ward & La Marketa neighborhoods. That brings the total to 31 bus stops where RTS riders now have a respectable place to sit while they wait. Here’s a birds eye view from the balcony of Teen Empowerment on Genesee Street.

#8

Weighing In on Projects & Plans

Through our Advocacy Committee, we submitted written input, attended public meetings and served on advisory committees on countless infrastructure projects and community plans. We urge planners and decision makers to create a connected community with streets and spaces designed for people. This kind of hyper-active advocacy work results in big wins, like the cycle track you see emerging here on E. Main Street, a project we weighed in on in 2019.

#7

Supporting Public Transit

We continued to play an active role in what’s happening with public transit in our community. We partner with RTS to advocate for increased funding that will allow them to make service improvements and expand bus stop amenities. We support mechanisms that will give riders visibility and voice around decision making tables. When there was an unexpected rollback in service in September, we made a strong statement and tried to keep the community informed.

#6

Spotlight on Pedestrian Safety

At our November edition of Rochester Street Films, we brought together our safe streets community partners, victims of road violence, community leaders and concerned citizens to have a community conversation about the silent epidemic of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on our streets. In case you missed it, watch the recording to catch up on the conversation!

#5

Informing the Electorate

Leading up to election days in June & November, we surveyed all candidates for Rochester Mayor and City Council to learn where they stand on issues related to transportation and mobility. Questions were designed to learn about their opinions, ideas and vision for a well-connected and accessible community.

#4

Making Monroe County Bike Friendlier

We continued to exponentially expand cycling-focused programs, advocacy, education and outreach. In fact, there are so many accomplishments that we had to create a CYCLING TOP 10 LIST. These efforts are led by Cycling Manager Jesse Peers with support from countless passionate people and partners working to make our community a safer and more bike friendly place.

#3

Supporting New Mobility Options

We helped educate the community and promote HOPR’s first season in our area, and we celebrated the installation of 8 new HOPR stations to expand bike & e-scooter access in Rochester’s underserved neighborhoods. We also spread the word about the launch of Floshare, an electric carshare pilot that offers an option for low income residents that can’t afford to own a personal vehicle.

#2

Blog Content That Inspires

We amped up content on our blog and enlisted guest blog writers to help us provoke thought and community engagement about things like transportation climate solutions, urban density, and designing streets for people. We’re especially proud of our 20 Minutes by Bike blog series.

#1

Strengthening Our Organization

Reconnect Rochester took some big leaps forward in 2021. We completed a 3-year strategic plan that charts our path ahead, announced a transformative investment by Dr. Scott MacRae (pictured above) that will enable us to expand our staff capacity, and appointed Mary Staropoli as Interim Executive Director to lead us through this period of growth and transition. In case you missed it, you can catch up on all the excitement here.

Just imagine what we can do in 2022!

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High Falls Greenway: A creative concept for the Inner Loop North project area

Filling in the northern section of Rochester’s Inner Loop presents a rare opportunity to re-knit the fabric of a neighborhood that was unjustly damaged by the era of highway construction. And if we do it right, a newly designed landscape will bring new economic opportunity, better connectivity and accessibility, and improved quality of life for the people who live there.

As the planning process for Inner Loop North heats up, now is the time for all of us to be most active, engaged and vocal about what we want to see. We encourage you to attend one of the public meetings coming up on Dec 2, 6 & 7 (details here) to ask questions and give input on the latest designs.

For our part, Reconnect Rochester has been serving on the project Community Advisory Council for several years, weighing in at every opportunity to urge planners to create a connected community with streets and spaces designed for people (not just cars). A few months ago, we submitted written input to City officials and the project design team outlining our thoughts.

One thing we encouraged was for the City of Rochester to be open to creative ideas that come from the community. One big idea that’s been put forth is the High Falls Greenway, a concept developed by Jon Schull and Ben Rubin that has been endorsed by Greentopia, Hinge Neighbors & R Community Bikes. Their concept contains some stellar thinking and seriously creative ideas.

Here are Jon and Ben to tell you all about it…


We need green, direct, car-free connections east-west across the river and north-south across the Inner Loop North. These connections can intersect and converge in a Greenway that overlooks the falls and provides functional and recreational active transport corridors that connect the downtown Riverway with High Falls, Frontier Field, and the Louise Slaughter Amtrak Station.

The Crossroads

Rochester faces a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine our city. Two massive urban development initiatives are underway; the ROC the Riverway projects traveling from south to north, and the east-west Inner Loop North project. Both converge at High Falls, where today an “overbuilt and underused” highway forms a pedestrian impasse obscuring one of the nation’s greatest urban waterfalls. As city planners and architects work to weave the Genesee Riverfront into “a direct trail connection to High Falls along the river,” we propose a greenway that would repurpose several lanes of the Inner Loop to fulfill the city’s aspirations.  The High Falls Greenway could be the heart of an active transportation and recreational network spanning the state, advancing social equity, economic opportunities, and ecological wellness for generations. 

“The successful transformation of the Inner Loop North will create new active and passive green spaces that promote multi-modal connectivity and accessibility, while also fostering opportunities for economic and community development.” – Inner Loop North Transformation Study, 2020

The city officials leading these efforts are forward-thinking advocates of active transportation, sympathetic to the principle that there should be car-free north-south and east-west corridors for pedestrians, bicyclists, tourists, wheelchairs users, and others who depend upon accessibility. A new administration, armed with funding and an ambitious 500 page Comprehensive Plan that maps Rochester’s aspirations for the next 15 years, can now turn big ideas into realities. But this can only happen with support from an informed and engaged public (that’s you!).

Rochester Raceway: A Retrospective

The City of Rochester, founded between a series of Seneca villages, began with a short canal called Brown’s Race. Built in 1815, the “raceway” channeled the Genesee to power flour mills at High Falls and became the epicenter of “America’s first Boom town.” Rochester’s population grew exponentially for a century, turning historical Haudenosaunee trails into roads for pedestrians and carriages, and adapted in the 1880s for bicycles. By 1900, Monroe County boasted the most extensive network of bicycle “sidepaths” anywhere in the nation with the same population it has today. Industrial giants, innovators and social activists like George Eastman, Glen Curtiss, and Susan B. Anthony all used these paths for their daily commute, along with 40,000 others.

But with the explosive adoption of automobiles, a new kind of race began, with roads prioritized for cars. Pedestrians were derided as “jaywalkers,” and bicycling (still the most energy-efficient form of locomotion in the known universe) became a second class form of transportation. 

In the 1950s construction began on the Inner Loop, designed to facilitate high speed automobile and truck traffic at the expense of other forms of transportation. For a decade entire districts were progressively leveled to the detriment of newly-settled black families during the final years of the “Great Migration“. Rochester’s new automotive “moat” was largely impassable for pedestrians. Residences and walk-in businesses just yards beyond the Inner Loop margins were suddenly walled off from their neighbors. Intentionally or not, city neighborhoods were divided into two separate and unequal districts. As illustrated by the map below, the Inner Loop continues to segregate the city’s least-valued and most-valued real estate. 

By the time the Inner Loop was completed, Rochester was a national model for shopping malls and suburban picture-perfect Americana while at the center of race riots in one of the country’s greatest concentrations of poverty. At the height of the nostalgic Instamatic years, our industry was paving over contaminated brownfields and our politics were downplaying racial discrimination.

Nevertheless, through social, economic, and environmental challenges, Rochester became home to adaptive and resistant communities: activists and immigrants, schools and hospitals, world-renowned musicians and deaf culture. Today, Rochester is defined by the storms it has weathered and by the diversity that has gathered along the riverbanks. Our long-constricted downtown is reintegrating into the larger Genesee River Valley, returning to the natural forces that powered the city growth.

High Falls Greenway

ROC the Riverway includes more than a dozen ongoing projects to improve access to the downtown riverway above and below High Falls. Inner Loop North, the next phase in our downtown highway remediation project, intersects the riverway and aims to restore the original street grid. Together, the projects are budgeted for ¾ of a billion dollars. They are interconnected and integral to the reintegration of Rochester; a critical junction in a critical moment.

The city’s engineers have been examining Brown’s race as a potential portal to High Falls. They assured us that some kind of pedestrian through-path could be possible with the planned changes to bridge elevation. Also possible is a dedicated car-free greenway, which clearly aligns with the mission of the city. Our initial presentation offered active transportation considerations compatible with all of the city’s published plans. We are not architects or engineers, but as engaged citizens we did consider 490 connections, scenic overlooks, street integration, and a variety of extensions between West Main and East Main. Urban greenways have benefits beyond providing an alternative to automotive traffic – they can be socially transformative.

Establishing a fluid intersection between the river and the road would build community. Historically disconnected neighborhoods along the river would have front row seats to what would be our greatest tourist attraction, a revived High Falls district. Families from out of town could take the train to our new station and rent bikes to catch a game at Frontier Field, a contest at ROC City Skatepark, or a graduation at U of R or RIT. Residents could ride the greenway for regular commutes to school, jobs across town, or for shopping at the public market. Convention Center visitors, Constellation employees, and local students could stroll up the center of the city, sampling sights, sounds and fresh air from the falls. And for neighborhoods like the Hinge district, open access to equitable resources like bike and scooter stations would go a long way to reintegrating our city and engaging marginalized youth.

An integrated Riverway and Greenway converging at High Falls would provide spectacular returns on investment. During our meetings with city advocates, we learned that sections of the newly reclaimed Inner Loop territory are currently earmarked for high density, high value housing. But that is not the only way to increase value. New York City’s investment in the High Line, which turned the stagnant meatpacking and Chelsea districts into attractive residential, business, and entertainment zones, has recouped 900% in tax revenues alone while maintaining dedicated greenspace for active transit. From Chicago to Atlanta, it is widely documented that greenways pay.

And then there are the benefits to ecology and health. A city optimized for human powered transportation becomes cleaner, more efficient, and more livable for humans and our ecological co-inhabitants. Rochester’s river, waterfalls, gorges, and park paths blend with our existing network of tree-lined streets, bike boulevards, and statewide trails. With so many existing natural resources defining the city, we all benefit more by planning with the natural systems we rely upon.

The city is collecting feedback from residents to correct some of the past mis-steps and to create lasting opportunities and livelihoods for future generations. City Hall won’t be carrying all of the responsibility alone. Families and schools, businesses and organizations, entire neighborhoods can stand together and remain vigilant to ensure that the city’s laudable vision and well-defined aspirations are preserved.

Rochester’s past, present, and future converge at High Falls. A greenway that fully integrates the east and west sides of the river would transform the way the world sees Rochester and the way we see ourselves. 

If you support a downtown greenway, spread the word.  Get your neighborhood association to join those that have already endorsed the proposal.  Post on social media. Join our facebook group. Talk to your representatives. And stay tuned. 

View the complete High Falls Greenway Proposal

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Announcing the Winners of the 2021-22 Complete Streets Makeover

(Drumroll please…)

Announcing the Winners of the 2021-2022 Complete Streets Makeover

In July, we asked you to help identify the intersections and trouble-spots in your daily travels where you don’t feel comfortable walking or biking, and that could be designed to be safer for everyone.

The community response was tremendous, and we thank all those who took the time to submit nominations! We received a total of 76 nominations for 68 locations in Monroe County.

Click here to view the nomination locations in Google Maps

The Steering Committee had a tough task to choose from so many quality submissions and deserving locations! A set of established judging criteria helped guide us through the selection process. Here we are, hard at work examining each and every submission:

So What’s the Good Word?

In the end, we selected the following locations as this year’s winners:

  • COMPLETE STREETS MAKEOVER WINNER: Orange Street & Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood
  • CITY DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Arnett Boulevard between Genesee Street & Warwick Avenue in the 19th Ward neighborhood
  • SUBURBAN DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Monroe Avenue between Highland Avenue & 12 Corners in the Town of Brighton
Orange & Orchard in the JOSANA Neighborhood will be the focus of our on-street installation

The Orange & Orchard location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street re-design that would create real, transformative change for the community through our project. We are eager to get to work with the families at School 17, Charles House Neighbors in Action, the Americorp Vista team, and JOSANA neighbors on a project to transform the intersection and create a safer space for the community.

The Steering Committee also selected two Design Rendering Winners. These locations might not be suitable for the on-street makeover project (because of their size or other feasibility issues), but we want to highlight them as places where the community would like to see improvements made.

What Happens Now? Let’s start with our Complete Streets Makeover Winner.

The Complete Streets Makeover will kick off with a community input session in January (facilitated by the Community Design Center) to hear from the residents of the JOSANA neighborhood about their experiences and ideas. No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than those who walk, bike, roll, and ride along them everyday.

2019’s community input session in the El Camino neighborhood.

Based on feedback from this session, the complete streets design team at Stantec will draft conceptual design improvements of an improved streetscape. The design will be brought to life through a temporary on-street installation in May. We will rely on people power from the neighborhood community, and equipment from the Healthi Kids traffic calming library to lay down the temporary design on the street. Stay tuned for project updates as we go along!

What About the Design Rendering Winners?

The design team at Stantec will provide each of our Design Rendering Winners with a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. The neighborhoods can use these illustrations as a launch pad for community discussion, and a tool to help advocate for changes that would make these streets safer for everyone.

Arnett Blvd between Genesee St & Warwick Ave
Monroe Ave between Highland Ave & 12 Corners Plaza

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Why Don’t Crosswalks Have Stop Signs?

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

A few nights ago I was riding my Onewheel through the residential streets of Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood. I slowed as I approached a lightly traveled 4-way stop sign controlled intersection, where a car stopped and yielded the right of way to me as I had reached the intersection first.

A few minutes later, I tried to cross Rochester’s South Ave. while carrying my device across a crosswalk. And while the signage clearly states that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way, 8 cars blew through said crosswalk before a car finally stopped and allowed me to pass.

Tonight I was trying to cross another street near Rochester’s historic Mt. Hope Cemetery (final resting place of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony) at a RRFB-controlled crosswalk. I pressed the button which activated the flashing yellow lights indicating that a pedestrian is ready to enter the crosswalk, and subsequently watched in horror as 19 cars drove through the crosswalk without so much as a brake tap.

Here’s my question… why aren’t pedestrian crosswalks simply controlled with a traditional stop sign? For the life of me I’ve never been able to understand this. Let’s break it down…

If we think of stop signs as safety signals for everyone on our streets, then why is it that our most vulnerable population, people on foot, only receive “yield” status?

If we claim that a pedestrian always has the right of way in a crosswalk, why do we treat pedestrians as “yield” worthy instead of “STOP” worthy like we do cars? Why doesn’t every non-signal-controlled crosswalk simply have a universally recognizable stop sign instead of an innocuous yield sign or flashing yellow lights that most drivers simply dismiss?

We claim to prioritize pedestrians with bright signage and flashing lights but until we prioritize a person the way we prioritize a car, truck or SUV, the number of people killed by cars will continue to rise.


Arian took this to the next level when he conducted a filmed experiment with an RRFB crosswalk — take a watch below:

Did that peak your interest? Consider attending this week’s Rochester Street Films Event: Silent Epidemic on the growing number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on our streets. We’ll be featuring this video along with several others + local data + live discussion with community leaders and crash victims.

(attend in-person at The Little Theatre or via livestream)

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Where They Stand: 2021 Candidates for Rochester Mayor & City Council

Reconnect Rochester surveyed all candidates for Rochester Mayor and City Council to learn where they stand on issues related to transportation and mobility.

Questions were designed to give the candidates the opportunity to share their opinions, ideas and vision for a well-connected and accessible community.  We hope this information will help you make an informed decision when you head to the polls on November 2 (or early, October 23-31).  We did our best to make contact with all of the candidates.

Click on the candidate names below to read their full, unedited responses. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

NOTE: We published candidates on the June 2021 Primary Ballot earlier this year, too — so you will notice some repeats.

**This list includes all candidates for City of Rochester Mayor and Council on the November 2, 2021 General Election ballot.  Early voting in New York State is October 23-31, 2021 (learn more about early voting here).  To check if you are registered to vote, confirm your polling location, and even see a preview of what your ballot will look like, click here.**

Candidate for Mayor:

Malik Evans

Candidate Email: malik@malikevans.org

Website: www.MalikEvans.org

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

Lack of reliable transportation for city residents to get all over Monroe County in a timely and efficient manner.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

We would cut down on air pollution, greater physical health benefits can be gained by biking and walking.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

We need a real ride share program that targets minority communities that go beyond the pilot stage. We should also explore transportation options that service all corners of the county. Residents should have choices on where they want to work or live and transportation should not be a barrier.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

First off we need more businesses to locate in neighborhoods so that people can bike or walk to work if they choose. Secondly we must ensure that mass transit is efficient and widely available so that people can get to where jobs are.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

I am a big fan of promoting walking. I usually walk to most of my appointments when I am in the downtown area. I would encourage carpooling and we must spread public awareness about biking and safety. It is still way too dangerous for many bicyclist and often pedestrians and that must change.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

I would love to be able to walk to city hall or to meetings from city hall. I would also like to take public transit from time to time to demonstrate the importance of mass transit.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

I would advocate for Rochester’s share of infrastructure funding so that we could have a diverse range of transportation choices for walking, biking and public transportation. Also ensure land use and and transportation regulations are integrated. This can only be done by engaging all sectors of the community. I would make public engagement on transportation and infrastructure a centerpiece of my administration.

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

We would encourage and incentivize small and medium size businesses to locate in neighborhoods. A person should not have to travel long commutes for work. I have always had short commutes and this has allowed me to use that time constructively.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

We can always improve on ensuring there is adequate clearing for snow removal around bus stops and frequently traveled walking areas. I see an opportunity to engage the public with getting involved in highlighting the needs and possibly adopting a sidewalk.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

Absolutely. I am very distressed by the lack of care on streets across this country. We regularly see people travelling above 40mph on streets across the city.

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

Speed Bumps, lowered speed limits, and regular public awareness activities. I am still shocked by the lack of respect shown to bicyclist and pedestrians. We must work together collectively to change it.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

Yes.

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

Yes and if we work with are partners at every level of Government state and federal we can reach silver.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

We can do better, we need high speed rail and easier transportation options. We should be able to get around without needing access to a car. I believe we can get there.

Candidates for City Council:

Mitch Gruber

Candidate Email: MitchForCityCouncil@gmail.com

Website: www.MitchGruber.com

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

This city has been built for automobiles. People with cars get where they want to go, when they want to go there. People without cars struggle because of issues with public transit, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian walkways. The result is an issue of transit equity, which is the biggest transportation challenge we have.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

Reduction in car travel would foster societal, environmental, and economic improvements. We’d see more connectivity between people, less emissions, and budgets that would focus more on people and less on cars.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

We can continue to invest in bicycle infrastructure and tighten the relationship between City and RTS.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

We must strengthen our routes for bicycle commuters. The upcoming bicycle boulevard initiative demonstrates a huge investment in commuter bicycling, but we have a lot more work to do. Most notably, we need an updated and improved bike master plan.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

I will continue to try and model the behavior of someone who cares about multi-modal transit. In my time on Council, I’ve posted videos and talked at length about bike riding, walking, and taking the bus. In fact, pre-COVID I walked from my house to every City Council meeting, recorded it, and invited community members to join. I will continue to do this type of work.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

When we were still meeting in person, I walked to every single Council meeting and put it on Facebook live. I will continue to walk to Council, ride in every unity ride, and always make sure that the City is thinking about bike/peds in any construction project.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

I believe that my actions of the last 3 years should demonstrate to Reconnect my full, 100% commitment to the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034.

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

One of the core economic development policies that the City adopted in recent years was to strengthen REDCO and move it out of City government. The result is an organization with more flexibility to facilitate economic development in specific ways. REDCO must encourage job creation and development in the city core, to better connect people to employment opportunities. Moreover, REDCO has the opportunity to be a transformative funder for transit equity, as they will be investing into commercial corridors. We must advocate for REDCO to think about transit equity whenever they invest in a commercial corridor.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

No. We need to continue to plow bike lanes, sidewalks, and bus stops. The issue has been, and will continue to be, money and resources. I will continue to advocate for more snow removal as we went a new budget year.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

Yes

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

Continue to invest in new bike infrastructure (Roc the Riverway, Bicycle Boulevards) and wayfinding tools .The City should also be partnering with Reconnect to create some of the videos and content that help facilitate safer streets.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

Yes.

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

Yes. I’ve also advocated for a bike/peds specialist on staff, and I will continue to do so.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

The City has made a lot of great improvements in the past three years, and I am proud of them. We also have a long way to go. I believe my track record has demonstrated my interest and ability to work with Reconnect to achieve shared goals. I will continue to do that work.

Jayvon Johnson

Candidate Email: Not available

Website: www.twitter.com/friendsofjay

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

 

Ann C. Lewis

Candidate Email: annlewis48@hotmail.com

Website: www.friendsofannlewis.org

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

 

Willie J. Lightfoot

Candidate Email: WillieLightfoot4CityCouncil@gmail.com

Website: www.WillieLightfoot.com

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley Martin

Candidate Email: Iknowstanleymartin@gmail.com

Website: www.peoplesslateroc.com

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

Our challenges lie in the inability of our community members to cheaply, efficiently, and safely move throughout our city landscape. These challenges are felt most often and most harshly by Black and Brown communities and are inextricable from questions of class. There are people in our community facing hours of daily commuting in order to get to work on public transportation. Problems like this stem not only from our flawed public transportation system, but also the inaccessibility of walking and biking as reliable transportation and the fact that so many of our city residents do not have reliable employment within a short distance of their homes.

 

Like so many other matters, our transportation challenges are intersectional and must be view through a holistic lens if we are to come up with sustainable and equitable solutions. This starts with the centering of communities that are most affected by the flaws and allowing them to speak to the changes that would best serve them. It also means reallocating funding to enable bold and meaningful changes to the way we address transportation in our city.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

When people walk, bike, run, or skate through their community they connect and interact with it in a very different way. Stopping to look through the windows of small businesses, taking a detour through a park or along the riverway to admire our incredible local landscape, saying “hello” to the person going by; these things help build a community. These modes of transportation are also cheaper, better for the environment, and better for the body than driving.

 

It is important that we make sure all of our city roadways and sidewalks are equally accessible to these modes of travel, and that all of our communities are given the same resources and attention as we improve on our infrastructure and cultivate green space.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

Bringing the most affected communities to the table in order to decide on the solutions, rather than deciding on their behalf is the most important part of any solution. Bus riders and drivers are not only the most affected by these, they are also the premiere experts on them. Additionally we can allocate funds to improve on the routes, the accessibility of our buses and stations, and reduce the cost for our riders.

 

We also need to find ways to keep our community safe while using public transport that does not involve policing. People using public transportation are disproportionate targeted by police, which is problematic enough without considering how many Black and Brown youth rely on public transportation. Equitable transportation means making sure that riders are being subjected to profiling and surveillance by RPD.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

A more efficient public transportation system is a part of this solution, but we also need to make sure that our communities have good, reliable jobs within their neighborhoods. Every person in Rochester should have the opportunity to support themselves and their family within walking distance.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

When elected, I will advocate for commuter benefit programs where employees can use pre-tax income to pay for various forms of public transportation as we move towards a system where it can be permanently free for all our residents. If we are serious about reducing emissions, serving our communities, and reducing vehicle traffic for a Vision Zero approach to transportation then we need to get serious about solutions.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

I am certainly willing to take the bus, bike, or walk to City Hall. I also support the purchase of additional electric busses until the entire RTS fleet is fully electric by 2030.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

“I will support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034 through the following measures:

  • Advocate for complete streets, led by community design, that are accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.
  • Advocating that fees for public transit be eliminated
  • Exploring options for additional modes of public transit including a city-wide light rail
  • Partnering with advocacy organizations such as Reconnect Rochester and frontline community members to advocate that policies best align with community needs aspirations.”

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

Community Land Trusts (CLT) can be an invaluable resource for youth employment, community education, quality nutrition, climate justice and housing development without displacement. I fully support CLT initiatives to further community control of residential & commercial spaces. When elected I work to further empower CLTs through public policy.

 

I also support a new vision for civilian-led public safety that directly engages and employs folks from marginalized communities in Rochester in good paying, unionized jobs. In particular, creating Community Safety Centers that would provide a wide array of services including family assistance, conflict mediation, civilian crisis intervention, and funds to compensate individuals and families who have experienced racism and other forms of discrimination. This new vision would also develop sites offering paid peer counseling, treatment programs, legal services & case management to improve housing, health care, employment opportunities, immigration advocacy & public benefits.

 

This would include enacting a Civil Life Corps to work with communities to help resolve day-to-day programs and address community needs including access to quality transportation, housing, voting rights, environmental equity & conservation. It would also involve creating civilian response teams who are trained in first aid, car mechanics, and de-escalation & conflict resolution to respond to traffic safety incidents. This plan can help create real employment opportunities to uplift neighborhoods across Rochester and puts the control exactly where it should be: in the community.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

The City of Rochester must implement stronger snow removal policies. With such snow-intensive winters, whole City blocks can be rendered inaccessible to frail older adults and people with mobility disabilities. It can also pose a tremendous a risk of injury due to falls. When elected, I will fight to make sure that we have comprehensive snow removal policies in all neighborhoods that ensure accessibility throughout the Fall and Winter months.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

Traffic-related deaths and injuries are not an inevitability, but are tied to planning and policy. I support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, including lowered speed limits, pedestrian zones, barriers that separate cars from bikes, and other measures. In addition, to re-imagine transportation & traffic safety, I support the use of civilian response teams who are trained in first aid, car mechanics, de-escalation & conflict resolution. I fully support community input and influence in determining appropriate policies needed to improve traffic safety in our neighborhoods. This includes consulting and soliciting input from neighborhood organizations, tenant unions, individuals & families, and faith communities.

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

To make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities, I support complete streets, led by community design, that are accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists. These may include bike lanes, roundabouts, improved, comfortable & convenient transportation stops, median green spaces, street art, and other features.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

I fully support the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations. I believe that we are all the experts of our own experience. By listening to folks directly affected by these decisions, we will ensure that public policies align with community needs.

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

I am a strong proponent of transitioning funds away from policing and into community-based services and infrastructure, which includes investing in alternative modes of transportation such as bike infrastructure.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

We have a long way to go before we achieve equitable, reliable, and sustainable transportation in this city, but if we continue to organize and work together towards real solutions with an intersectional mindset then we can achieve the kinds of changes that we all know our community needs and deserves. If you support this agenda, or have any input on how we can improve our positions regarding transportation here in Rochester, please visit Peoplesslateroc.com and get connected with our campaign.

Miguel Melendez

Candidate Email: melendezforcouncil@gmail.com

Website: www.melendezforcouncil.com

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

There are a few… First, I believe our public transportation system is still challenging. I know that we are in the process of making changes but it still takes too long to travel in this City with public transit. I also believe that our communities lack public transit amenities such as street furniture and bus shelters. Over time, we have removed more and more of these features instead of repairing/replacing them. I also believe we have to increase our active bike lanes and “sharrows.” We have come a long way since that time and I believe the work of that committee helped set the stage for increasing access in Rochester. Since joining council, I have helped improve the bicycle boulevards efforts and sought increased wayfinding, something I will continue to advocate for as a sitting councilmember. We still have a lot of work to do. I think dedicated bike lanes and increased biking infrastructure are great next steps and hopefully the East Main Street project will be a great example of what we can do as we approve large road reconstruction projects. I also believe we have to improve walkability in our communities as part of the Roc 2034 comp plan. We need to couple our placemaking strategies with our transportation efforts to ensure people have access to new destinations.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

I think it helps create a sense of community. Everything is different in a neighborhood when you have neighbors walking instead of driving past each other. I have seen this benefit with the opening of the international plaza, something that is near and dear to my heart as part of my work in the El Camino neighborhood at Ibero. In the neighborhood vision plan, residents were clear; they wanted a neighborhood that had destinations, walkability, and where they could recirculate their dollar. Creating destinations AND making those destinations accessible are both important. I worked with residents to apply for and implement a “Complete Streets Makeover” project on North Clinton Avenue. Through that project, we painted two crosswalks, bump-outs, a ramp for accessibility, and public art across North Clinton Avenue to the International Plaza site (before it was built) to demonstrate the vision of neighbors in the area. While we certainly wanted to do more with the project (such as add a temporary median on North Clinton Avenue), we have advocated for the city to add permanent crosswalks in the future. So the benefits from my perspective are improved quality of life, improved health, improved safety, cost savings for the resident and reduced negative impact on climate change.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

City government can improve transit by improving street amenities, advocating for the creation of more East/West bus routes (some of which is occurring in Reimagine RTS, such as the Upper Falls BLVD route), continuing to develop street infrastructure (dedicated bike lanes, bike lanes, sharrows, wayfinding, etc.), developing more transit options (PACE bikes, increased bus route frequency, etc.) and maintaining an affordable system for the public by investing in public transit, as needed and appropriate.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

I believe, wholeheartedly, there is an opportunity to bring some of the jobs our citizens take closer to home. For example, we have learned so much during the pandemic and working remotely is now a way of life. While not everyone has access to technology, we have access to vacant warehouse and old manufacturing spaces all across the city in our urban neighborhoods that could be repurposed. I do not understand why we need to have our citizens take two buses to work at a call center in Henrietta when people could work at a call center up the street. With that being said, let me answer the question. What I have said in my other responses rings true here. I also think we can encourage employers to help with incentives for employees. Major employers should be able to invest some resources in transportation. Training and placement programs like YAMTEP have figured out how to provide transportation to clients to employment opportunities. Coming out of the pandemic, I think rideshare/carpool options should be considered.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

With the transit center being so close to City Hall, I think there are great opportunities for City employees to reduce their carbon footprint. However, there are many jobs do require constant transportation in the field (such as inspectors) where it would be hard to find an alternative. As a councilmember, I believe the best way to encourage and incentivize residents is to improve the amenities. If we can continue to invest resources to create a more robust system where citizens see themselves utilizing alternative transportation methods.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

I started my career riding a bus to and from work. I did not start driving until a year into my professional career. I drive now out of necessity and a packed calendar. However, I certainly would be willing to push myself utilize the bus more often, particularly to City Hall.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

I believe in connecting all the broken links in our trail systems. I will support existing bridges, advocate for the running track bridge to be completed, continue to invest in bike blvds and support the advancement of CAMP. I have been and will continue to do these things. As part of the Capital improvement plan for the City, many of these issues are in the current 5-year plan. I also believe that there is more opportunity with the American Rescue Plan to support infrastructure projects, we are still awaiting for guidance from the federal government. So, this is on the radar of the current administration and I believe current councilmembers do see the value in these efforts. What we have to do is bring transportation infrastructure to more of the side streets. I will continue to work on all of these things as a sitting councilmember and hope to do more to improve infrastructure over the next several years.

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

I would incentivize repurposing existing infrastructure to create more economic activity in city neighborhoods. I believe that ultimately we have to find new and innovative ways to keep more dollars in our community and recirculate those resources as often as possible. I feel we have too many chain businesses interested in locating on our commercial corridors (family dollar stores being a prime example) that put very little back into our neighborhoods. Vacant buildings are assets and we have to find ways to incentivize reinvestment in infrastructure to private owners. I also believe we have many jobs in our region but there is a disconnect. I will work to help fix the community to opportunity pipeline, so that inner city residents are aware and connected to available options. I believe the office of community wealth building under the Mayor’s office can be a tremendous asset in this space.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

I think the snow removal policy is decent but we need to improve in two areas. First, I would like to see better clearance for ADA ramps/cross walks and at bus stops/bus shelters. Too often we see people riding or walking in the street because of this issue. Second, I also believe the City should consider snow removal on sidewalks for residential streets. How we achieve this might be a challenge. I know it is the responsibility of the resident to remove snow in front of their homes, but often, people neglect that part of the responsibility. I think a policy that targets snow removal during major storms (i.e., maybe over 10 inches of snowfall?) should be considered, at a minimum. This could be similar to our high grass & weed policy.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

I believe we should lower the speed limit on residential streets to 25 mph. I have been part of the drive 2 be better planning efforts and signed onto various advocacy letters/efforts to reduce the speed limit in the city of Rochester. I also believe we should invest more in traffic calming infrastructure such as bump-outs, tree plantings, raised crosswalks, painted crosswalks, and speed bumps. I understand there is a limit to some of these strategies but traffic speeds in a neighborhood certainly impact quality of life. It impacts play in neighborhoods too, as parents often site speeding cars as one of the reasons they do not allow their children to play outside. I do believe traffic deaths are preventable.

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

1.) Lowering the speed limit on residential streets (25 mph)
2.) Increasing road infrastructure such as bump-outs and exploring more road diets on major arterial streets.
3.) Plant more trees in tree lawns (proven to slow traffic)
4.) Increase use of protective bike lanes as a future strategy
There are many other suggestions in other answers that I wont repeat.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

I would be. I have been part of such efforts at community tables, but institutionalizing the conversation in government makes sense. I also know that in addition to the City, GTC and others have a say and sway in the process. We have to figure out how to make these things work together.

One of the issues you will always have to contend with is businesses and “their” parking. We have to find more ways to engage business owners in these discussions too, so they can understand the long-term value of the paradigm shift.

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

Yes. I have supported various biking infrastructure projects in the past 6 months on council. I was part of the bike master planning process in a limited way as part of my work with Healthi kids. I fully support the plan.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

I am accessible as a councilmember. Reach out. Include me. Invite me. If I can attend meetings or be helpful, I want to be. I know I have only been on council for 7 months but I feel I have already contributed greatly to these conversations at city hall and have a great relationship with PPW chair.

Jasmin Reggler

Candidate Email: Jasmin@jasminforjustice.com

Website: www.jasminforjustice.com

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges are timely and reliable transportation options.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

Walking, biking and using public transportation are options that would reduce fossil fuel emissions in our city. Additionally, residents who reduce their car usage experience greater community contact and engagement while also getting more exercise.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

To support public transit and transportation options, the City government can approve funding increases for the RTS to operate more efficiently. City government can also increase the amount of bike lanes as well as maintain the current bike route system. Currently in Rochester there are many community organizations that provide bikes free of charge to residents. The City might collaborate with these organizations to support the efforts of providing bikes free of charge.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

As a resident without a personal vehicle, by choice, I have experienced first-hand the inadequacies of our public transportation options. Often the RTS runs late or misses stops altogether—this is unacceptable. I understand RTS is rolling out new routes and time standards this year and I will wait to comment any further until the changes have taken place. Consistency, reliability and abundant route options are the most important considerations here.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

Within the City network I would encourage employees to carpool by creating a ride-share network. This online option would allow employees to offer/accept rides that were posted. In addition to offering incentives to riding public transportation, such as drastically reduced bus pass rates. More bike parking options would be needed to ensure employees had parking access.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

As a resident without a personal vehicle, I will lead the community by example. I will share my experiences and encourage others to do the same. I would be willing to commute to City Hall to raise awareness of our collective carbon footprint.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

I will support the transportation vision of Rochester 2034 by participating in community feedback sessions. As a community member I will be using my voice to represent and advocate for greater and more equitable transportation options for Rochester residents.

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

With the legalization of cannabis in NY there will be a revitalization of opportunities in that field. I’d be sure to advocate for those jobs staying in the city core for our residents–creating job creation and sustained employment opportunities right in Rochester.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

Clear sidewalks and bus stops are a must in our city. Due to the harsh winters, this must be made a priority.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

I am comfortable with where the speed limits are at and would work in other area to reduce our carbon footprint.

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

Improved spacing and visibility of bike lanes.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

Yes, absolutely. Currently community groups are established and I will work alongside folks who are already working on these issues.

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

Yes, I would support funding for the infrastructure to be improved. Not only is biking important to achieving our goals of a reduced carbon footprint, but the activity itself is a great benefit for quality of life.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

I am a resident who does not own a personal vehicle. I believe more Rochester residents would feel comfortable to use biking, public transportation, car-pooling if they felt supported by the infrastructure. We can do this!

Victor Sanchez

Candidate Email: info@votevictorsanchez.com

Website: www.votevictorsanchez.com

 

What are Rochester’s greatest transportation challenges?

Rochester has a deep-rooted car culture which has unfortunately shaped the way we develop our City and the policies we have set in place. Shifting that culture and undoing the care-centric infrastructure we have developed, is a huge challenge and it will require community support, strategic planning, and dedicated funding. We are lacking the public transit system that is convenient and street/road systems that are people-focused making it easy to walk and bike as a way to get around.

 

What are the top benefits our community would see by getting residents out of their cars and experiencing other modes of travel?

Moving away from relying on cars as a way of travel will have great benefits on the environment as well as community and personal health. A majority of the carbon emissions come from vehicles and reducing the amount of cars on the road will only support the work that needs to be done to achieve cleaner air and combat climate change, both of which have a negative impact on the health of our communities. Reducing vehicles on the road would also create safer streets, and reduce the risk of vehicular accidents and maybe even shift the way neighbors interact and utilize the streets to do that.

 

What do you think City government can do to support public transit and create more equitable transportation options, especially in communities of color?

The systemic racism that has segregated communities of color that have gone undeveloped and forgotten needs to be undone. The communities impacted need to be brought into the conversation. The city government needs to work with other elected officials at all levels of government to continue and grow the support of our transit system and work with RTS to ensure that stops and routes are in all communities, especially those that rely on it most. We need to prioritize alternative modes of transportation, such as rideshare programs. We also need to shift our development to assure our residents can get to resources and services within a short commute accessible by walking or cycling.

 

What steps can the City take to improve accessibility to jobs for the 26% of Rochester residents who do not own or have access to a personal vehicle?

The city needs to work with businesses, other municipalities, and RTS to assure that there are routes that go to where the jobs are. The city also needs to improve the development of businesses within areas of the city and work to develop business in a strategic approach where transit lines exist. We also need to assure that there is the infrastructure to support other forms of transportation like walking and cycling.

 

What steps will you take to encourage/incentivize residents (especially City employees) to commute using transportation options other than single occupant vehicles (walk/bike/bus/carpool/etc.)?

The main step to encourage anyone to use other modes of transportation is to assure other methods are convenient. The city needs to work with RTS to assure routes are accessible and frequent. The City also needs to make sure that any rideshare programs are easy to use for residents to get to their needed jobs. The city government should lead by example and incentive city employees to use public transportation by providing vouchers or bus passes. The city government also has the power to set a strategic plan to develop any new businesses on transit lines or setting codes prioritizing bike storage over parking in new development.

 

How will you lead the community in reducing our transportation carbon footprint? Do you or would you be willing to take the bus, bike or walk to City Hall?

I look forward to being able to take the bus to City Hall, I wish it was convenient and accessible to take public transit to my day job now. I will continue and do more to support events like Roc Transit Day, and cycling events as well as promote more when I use modes of transit that aren’t my car.

 

How specifically will you support the transportation vision outlined in Rochester 2034?

As someone that was very involved with gathering input for the 2034 Plan, I am excited for the opportunity to support and facilitate the implantation of this plan. A majority of my conversations revolved around increasing walkability and multi-model transportation; I will assure that any remodeling and development of streets are done with this vision in mind and done in a way that highlights safety and transportation choice.

 

What land use and economic development policies would you pursue to encourage job creation and development to remain in the city core, and better connect people in the city to employment opportunities?

We have a great opportunity to prioritize and encourage the creation of small businesses through, zoning and eliminate barriers such as minimum square footage, parking requirements which can hinder someone from starting a business. We need to invest in our people encourage entrepreneurial ship through providing support, space, and resources. We have a mixture of industrial skills and innovative technical talent from our universities and industrial past. We need to be creative in finding innovative ways to bring those things together in two the new era.

 

Are you satisfied with our current sidewalk and bus stop snow removal policies? What opportunities for improvement do you see?

I am not satisfied with our existing work, it never feels like there is sufficient sidewalk snow removal, and don’t see much done when it comes to bike lanes or bus stops. I know resources and funding for this work are a challenge. We need to prioritize streets and transit as a matter of safety and equity and having dedicated employees to maintain our streets would be a priority of mine.

 

Do you support a “Vision Zero” style approach to road safety, which includes lowered speed limits and other traffic calming practices and policies?

Yes, I fully support a “Vision Zero” style approach including reducing speeds. I have been very appreciative and supportive of some of the innovative ways to achieve this vision through the complete street work that has been going on. I do believe reducing the use of cars and car culture in Rochester is the best way to achieve this vision.

 

What specific actions do you suggest to make Rochester safer for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities?

We need to continue and increase our investment in biking infrastructure. I don’t agree that painted lines for bikes is enough and want to see dedicated bike lanes that are raised or have some kind of barrier from car traffic.

 

Would you favor the establishment of a bike/pedestrian advisory committee with the power to review road projects and make recommendations?

Yes, this would be a great opportunity to partner with organizations like Reconnect and the Cycling Alliance to assure those that have been strong advocates are part of the process. It will be important that there is true empowerment of the committee and not just symbolic

 

Rochester recently received a renewal of its “Bronze” level award as a bike-friendly community. One of the key steps to receiving “Silver” status is a dedicated budget for implementing our Bike Master Plan. Would you support a line item in the budget devoted to bike infrastructure?

Yes, dedicated budget and resources are important to achieve several of the goals in the previous questions.

 

Are there any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share about transportation and mobility in Rochester?

We need to follow our plan and prioritizes walkability and multimodal transportation. We need to change our culture from being car-focused, we need to shift the mindset of having the need of people driving to the front door of their destination.

Kim Smith

Candidate Email: thepeoplesslate@gmail.com

Website: www.peoplesslateroc.com

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

Marcus C. Williams

Candidate Email: marcuscampaign@gmail.com

Website: www.marcusforrochester.squarespace.com

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

 

Antonia N. Wynter

Candidate Email: antoniawynterforcitycouncil@gmail.com

Website: @AntoniaWynterforCityCouncil on Facebook & Instagram

 

We did not receive a response from this candidate.

 

 

 

 

Reconnect Rochester would like to thank all of the candidates (and their teams) for the time and effort they’ve dedicated to our community, and for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to working with them very soon.

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“Flower City Feeling Good” Summer Group Rides: Building Community & Learning Road Lessons Along the Way

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

After taking a bike class in 2013 which made me much more comfortable biking around, in 2014 I adopted the bike as my primary mode of transportation. Since biking short distances was easy and fun, it wasn’t long before I wanted to ride with other people. In May 2015 I took our son and we went on our first group ride: a tour of public art as part of RoCo’s Ride It exhibit. Riding in such a large group was euphoric! I knew I wanted more.

That summer I started attending the weekly Unity Ride at Bulls Head Plaza, then in its first season. The people, the diversity of the crowd, and the Unity Ride’s message – cyclists coming together to stand for non-violence and community – kept me coming back each week. I also started attending the City’s Tuesday Guided Bike Tours sponsored by the Recreation Department. That’s how I got to know Richard DeSarra, who was leading those rides at the time. For decades, Richard was the godfather of all-things-cycling in Rochester. If there was anything happening related to bikes, he had his fingerprints all over it. Most notably, he cofounded the Rochester Cycling Alliance with Jon Schull and was instrumental in the creation of Rochester’s first Bicycle Master Plan.

Richard was a perfect bicycle tour guide. Not only was he a natural at herding a large group of cyclists across the city, but he just knew so much about local history, architecture and culture that anywhere we went, I’d learn something new. It was through those Rec Dept guided bike tours that I got to know Rochester by bike, particularly the Genesee Riverway Trail and other scenic locations.

Eventually Richard’s health started deteriorating and he wasn’t able to lead the tours anymore, though his advocacy and leadership continued until he passed away in 2019.

For several years, Oscar Wilson led the tours and did a great job growing the community. As with many things, the pandemic threw a wrench in those weekly tours and this year, the Recreation Department felt it was time for a reboot of sorts. The City reached out to Reconnect Rochester to see if we’d be interested in organizing and leading the weekly tours. We jumped at the unexpected opportunity and asked longtime collaborator Exercise Express and R Community Bikes to help.

We changed the night to Wednesdays and decided to use these fun community rides to familiarize residents with bike infrastructure, and to focus the tours on the newly expanded Bike Boulevard network.

For those unfamiliar with bike boulevards, they are a low-stress network of mostly residential side streets that parallel busy arterials. Traffic calming measures such as speed bumps are installed to slow down and even deter car traffic, so cyclists have a better experience. Over time, wayfinding signage will be added for cyclists. Until this year, Rochester barely had any Bike Boulevards. Many are probably familiar with the first in the area: the Harvard/Canterbury boulevard from Hillside Ave/Cobbs Hill to Monroe Ave.

In 2021, the City added 20 miles to the network! When you include the next phase of boulevards (the yellow routes above, which are absolutely cyclable now!), the future Running Track Bridge connection, and pre-existing trails, you end up with a bike network like this:

Thanks to Stefan Korfmacher for creating this stylized map for us to generate interest and discussion. Click here for a key.

Here is the best thing about the Bike Boulevards: They are Rochester’s first and up to this point only centrally planned bike network. Whereas bike infrastructure on arterials is too often done in piecemeal fashion “where feasible” with no overall view to connectivity, the Bike Boulevards are the first instance of Rochester zooming out and implementing a centrally coordinated plan to connect the city. As a result, from one end of a particular boulevard to the other, there are no gaps. Keep in mind these boulevards cross major, busy streets but for the most part avoid cycling along them.

It’s important to note that the City views these bike boulevards as complementary to, not substitutes for, on-street infrastructure on arterials. But the boulevards in large part can get you where you need to go within the city comfortably as long as you’re willing to go a little bit out of your way. Someday the network could expand to look like this.

Our hope over the summer was to build up bike traffic along this growing network ahead of time and amp up excitement for construction. We rode from a different Rec Center each week and each ride was about seven miles so it could be comparable in length to other community rides like the Unity Ride. Over the course of the series, we were able to show how these various routes connect with each other to form a usable network. Here are all of our different rides over the summer combined in one image.

Map courtesy of Bob Williams at Genesee Transportation Council

Great emphasis was put on the City’s north side, where not much bike infrastructure is present and where many Rec Centers were kept open during the pandemic due to the vital support they provide to their surrounding communities. Participants enjoyed riding along the east-west boulevards in this area that serve as wonderful alternatives to Norton, Clifford, and Bay.

Though we weren’t able to ride every boulevard this summer, you can see how these low-stress routes really do connect the City! From our marker campaign, we knew residents wanted an easier way to bike to the Zoo and to the Public Market. Well, this bike network delivers! The El Camino Trail, which you can get to via bike boulevards, ends at the Seneca Park Zoo and the Public Market is approachable via bike boulevards from all four directions!

The best part of the series was having participants ride through neighborhoods they had never seen before. Maplewood and 14621 just west of RGH got a lot of love. To my surprise, participants’ favorite ride was the longest one with the most hills! To wrap up the series, we stopped by Exercise Express, which is situated on the Ames Street bike boulevard, for some treats. Along with some group photos, here is some of the neat stuff we spotted along our journeys:

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: University of Rochester

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?

Presenting the sixth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose the University of Rochester Medical Center on Elmwood Avenue and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to U of R within 20ish minutes on a bike or scooter. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), here’s Tracey Austin sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.


When I started commuting by bike 14 years ago, I didn’t realize how much ground a bike can cover in a short amount of time. And I’m not a fast rider! It was surprising to me that commuting by bike was almost as fast as driving my car to work. And when I started working at the University of Rochester, I was happy to find out I could save even more time and money on parking by biking to work.

Over the years, I have found that there is so much within reach while biking. There are many wonderful parts of Rochester within a very reasonable 20 minute ride to and from the University. Let me share with you a few of the discoveries I’ve made!

One of the best discoveries by far is that UR is only a 12-minute pedal away from the RTS Downtown Transit Center. Even better, this commute runs along the beautiful Genesee Riverway Trail! If you don’t have a bike or prefer not to bring one on the bus, you can rent a HOPR bike or scooter right at the Transit Center. Google Maps is a great navigating tool for this route. These photos show the Google Maps directions while also highlighting bike boulevards around the area. This is a very exciting prospective route for someone wanting to commute from a surrounding suburb who would rather take the bus for the first part of their trip.

I have driven my car to work only once since starting at UR. The annual parking pass can cost several hundred dollars on up. Also, UR has recently added a daily $5 occasional parking pass so you can just pay for the days you are not able to walk or bike. Not only do I love not paying for parking, but I’ve realized that I could save time by biking to work once I account for time spent walking or shuttling from my assigned parking lot!  This is definitely worth testing out to see if it may work for you, even if only in the warmer months of the year.

There’s no doubt UR is a hot spot for bikes! When Pace/Zagster was in our region, UR had the most utilized bikeshare station of the entire network. Now with 3 new HOPR hubs on our campuses, we are well on our way to being another great connection point—not only for students and employees, but for anyone needing to rent a bike in the area.

Having my bike at work adds convenience during the day, too: if I have to leave for a meeting, I don’t have to walk all the way to a car in a distant parking lot; my bike is parked right outside my office at an easily accessible rack. And I can go for a leisurely ride on my lunch break, because I am close to both the Genesee Riverway Trail and the Erie Canal Trail. These scenic trails also provide great commuting options and a way to get off the busy surrounding streets.

Speaking of lunch, taking the pedestrian bridge from River Campus over to the 19th Ward gives cyclists 10 minute access to Brooks Landing. Expand your horizons beyond just College Town! If you have 20 minutes, you can make it all the way downtown, to Corn Hill Landing, Fuego Coffee, the Foodlink Café at the Central Public Library, and more. And taking South Ave toward Rochester City Center lands cyclists in the South Wedge for any number of restaurant choices. And that’s just if you head north from UR!

Heading south you can easily reach the border of Henrietta and all the stores and restaurants at Park Point. Take the Lehigh Valley Trail (a superhighway for bikes!) from the South Lot and follow it all the way down to Brighton Henrietta Town Line Rd. From there you can easily head on over to RIT or down Jefferson Rd as well. This gives you so many awesome connection points to cut commuting time and stay off the major roadways.

Genesee Valley Park is also directly south of the River Campus and is a great access point: to the Canal Trail and all points west, plus the Greenway Trail, which can open even more commuting options for people in Scottsville and Henrietta (that would sometimes work out to be over 20 minutes, though).

Heading east from URMC, you can easily make it to 12 Corners in Brighton and all the parks in between. Highland Park is a mere 10 minutes by bike from anywhere at UR, and taking a short detour through Mt. Hope Cemetery offers a peaceful route coming from any direction.

The Memorial Art Gallery and surrounding Neighborhood of the Arts can easily be accessed by biking north on the Genesee River Trail on the east side of the river up to the Genesee Gateway Park where you can exit the trail and immediately cross Mt Hope Ave and be on Alexander St, taking that all the way to University Ave! Make a right on University and the MAG is one block up on the left.

 A similar distance to the Susan B. Anthony House neighborhood on the west side of the river can easily be achieved straight up Jefferson Ave from the Riverview Apartments on the river trail west. Not to mention all of the streets of housing that can be accessed in the 19th Ward from two pedestrian bridges and the Ford Street Bridge! 

The UR shuttle service is also a great resource for bike commuters since all of the shuttles have bike racks on the front. So if you are an employee or student and you live Downtown near Eastman School of Music, in the 19th Ward, or Southwedge you have access to a shuttle right in your neighborhood. Check out the shuttle schedules on the transportation website to see if you could even bike to a shuttle stop and then hitch a ride the rest of the way to work/school.

There are many other points you can reach from UR in 20 min by bike, some of which are:

    • Southwest YMCA
    • Parcel 5
    • Eastman School of Music
    • Downtown Rochester
    • Greater Rochester International Airport
    • Frontier Field
    • MCC
    • Brighton Town Park

Free covered bike parking on Library Rd on River campus, more of these solar-lit covered bike parking shelters to come!

If you’re pedaling to work, you can keep your bicycle safe and secure at one of our fully enclosed bike stations. The bike stations are located on the ground level of the hospital’s ramp garage, with one at Jackson Drive and the other at East Drive. Both bike stations offer:

    • 24/7 access
    • space saver bike racks
    • security cameras
    • weather-protection
    • self-service bike repair stations

For $40 per year, bike commuters can purchase a permit to either bike station which offers:

Permits for the bike stations can be purchased through the Transportation and Parking Management Center at 70 Goler House during regular business hours or at the Parking Office inside the main hospital garage after business hours. Appointments are now required if you are visiting the Parking Management office in person. Book an appointment online using the online appointment reservation form. For more information, please contact the Parking Management Center at 585-275-4524.


Newly renovated Jackson Drive Bike Cage:

East Drive Bike Cage:

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Lake Avenue is Not Built For Everyone

Guest blog by Rachel Barnhart, who represents District 21 on the Monroe County Legislature and has been a longtime advocate for safer streets.

A driver struck and killed a woman walking on Lake Ave on September 17. She was at least the 90th pedestrian or cyclist injured or killed on Lake Ave in the mile-long stretch between Driving Park Ave and Lyell Ave over the last decade. That’s an average of nine people hurt every year in a distance we can walk in less than 20 minutes.

It’s time to make Lake Ave safe for everyone, particularly the people who live there.

About half of the people who live in the two census tracts on the west side of Lake Ave between Driving Park and Lyell live in poverty. More than one-third of the households do not own cars. They are using other means of transportation — walking, cycling and public transit. Yet Lake Ave is not built for the use of the people who call the surrounding blocks home. 

Lake Ave is built for speed. The road has 11-foot-wide lanes, 3-foot shoulders, recessed bus stops and turning lanes. These are all design elements conducive to high speeds. The speed limit on Lake Ave is 35 mph, a speed at which pedestrians have a 45 percent chance of being killed when struck. Speed data indicates that between Emerson St and Lexington Ave, half of drivers are going above 36 mph, and one in seven drivers is going above 42 mph. Driving on Lake Ave can be stressful, with tailgating, aggressive lane changes, and, yes, speeding.

A portion of Lake Ave, featuring six lanes.

When examining crash data over the last decade, it’s evident Lake Ave does not have enough traffic lights and they are not timed properly. There are not enough crosswalks, as you have to walk nearly a half-mile in one location between Driving Park and Lyell before encountering a designated place to cross. Lake Ave also takes pedestrians time to cross — it’s six lanes in some spots! In many locations, drivers can turn right on red and they can make left turns everywhere, further endangering pedestrians.

Imagine being a pedestrian or cyclist in this environment, especially on a cold, snowy or rainy day. You just want to cross the street to get to your bus stop, the grocery store, your job, or your friend’s house. But Lake Ave is not built for you. 

Despite the carnage, there is predictably no outcry to make Lake Ave safer for all who use the road. Lake Ave’s crash history sadly shows the correlation between poor street safety, race and poverty. Our culture is oriented toward the needs of drivers, no matter the collateral damage. We have an intense bias reflected in news stories that regularly use the passive voice to describe crashes. A pedestrian is “hit by a car,” not the person driving the car. We blame pedestrians for not following the rules of the road, even though drivers on Lake Ave routinely disregard traffic laws, such as the speed limit.

We can make Lake Ave work for everyone by redesigning the road. Unfortunately, drivers will fight for their ability to speed through neighborhoods, like when public opposition killed a road diet planned for a northern section of Lake Ave in 2014. There are still ideas on the table, such as Reconnect Rochester’s concept to make the Phelps Ave intersection safer.

A design rendering by Stantec for the intersection of Lake Ave & Phelps Ave, which came out of Reconnect’s 2018 Complete Streets Makeover program.

City leaders kicked off a Pace Car program on Lake Ave in 2016, which encouraged drivers to be more mindful of pedestrians and cyclists. That effort faded, but should be revived as part of a more comprehensive Vision Zero plan, which focuses on road design, enforcement and education to reduce crashes. 

Lake Ave is not built for everyone, but it could be one day, if we value the safety and quality of life of everyone who uses this corridor.

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Is It A Sidewalk? Is It A Path?

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

Over a year ago, I was excited by the opening of the long-awaited Highland Crossing Trail, providing a mile-long connective path that is now a section of my daily bike commute. The path is just a part of a decade-long planning effort to create a pedestrian and bike trail that connects the Empire State Trail (formally the Erie Canalway Trail) with the Genesee Riverway Trail via the Olmstead-designed Highland Park. And while I am thrilled with the collaborative effort between Rochester and the first-ring suburb of Brighton, there is a significant piece of this trail that isn’t the traditional definition of a trail at all.

The “double-wide” sidewalk along Elmwood Avenue is part of The Highland Crossing Trail (shown here two years ago under construction).

Enter the “double-wide” sidewalk, which, for an urbanist, is like dreaming of a Trek bike and getting a Huffy instead. You didn’t get what you wanted, but at least you got something. And hey, I’m not hating on the upgrade… I’m a firm believer in acknowledging every victory, no matter how small. Just because we don’t get what we ultimately wanted out of the gate doesn’t mean we, as advocates, aren’t making progress.

The double-wide sidewalk can, theoretically, safely and comfortably accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, and can be a useful and inviting step in welcoming more people on foot and on two wheels. The problem, of course, lies in the “left-hook” scenario, when drivers turning left into this “path” are hyper-focused on sneaking through two lanes of oncoming car traffic, ignoring the possibility that a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way may be approaching crosswalk. This is even more of a hazard for cyclists who travel at a higher speed than pedestrians, creating an issue of sightlines for the driver turning into the path. But this issue can be safely mitigated with a few practical steps.

Controlled Left Hand Turn Signal

For cars turning left into the mixed-use path, a left-hand turn arrow is essential in protecting cyclists and pedestrians using the crosswalk. A red arrow ensures that, when path-goers have the signaled right of way, drivers cannot turn into them.

Think about when you are behind the wheel, turning left across two lanes of oncoming traffic. Your focus is on the cars coming at you as you measure that gap in the traffic, seeing when you can step on the gas and make your left. On a busy road at rush hour, you might only have a momentary break in traffic… you have to take advantage! But how often do you look beyond the two lanes of traffic to see if there is a pedestrian or bike entering the crosswalk? Think about it… anyone entering the crosswalk at this point has the right of way, just like car traffic traveling straight through the green light. You, as a left-hand turner, must yield to sidewalk users as well when you make your left turn.

A red arrow controls left turns for cars when pedestrians have the right of way, restricting the potential for conflict when the car turns into the double-wide sidewalk.

Sidewalk Signals Change With Traffic, Not A Push Button

This is a big one for me. In major metros and downtowns, pedestrian crosswalk signals change with the traffic lights, removing the “please sir can I have some more” ridiculousness of the “beg button” scenario where pedestrians have to physically ask permission to legally receive a signal to cross a road. When implementing a double-wide mixed sidewalk, pedestrian/cycling signals should ALWAYS change with the traffic light. If a car is traveling northbound and has a green light, but a pedestrian traveling northbound has to push a button for the pedestrian signal to say she can cross, you’re doing it wrong. EVERY pedestrian crosswalk in today’s society should change regardless of whether someone pushes that stupid red button or not.

In all seriousness, the whole point of turning a sidewalk into a mixed-use trail is to create greater clarity around the prioritization of the pedestrian and the cyclist. And the scooter rider, and skateboarder, etc. Our pedestrian/wheeled trail user should be able to indulge in this prioritization without pushing a beg button.

If All Else Fails, Do The “Look Back”

As a pedestrian, bike and micro-mobility advocate, I don’t get in the habit of telling people to protect themselves against cars. Instead I bring to light the over-prioritization of the automobile and the need for drivers to share the road and show respect for those who aren’t protected by two tons of steel. That being said, in the case of the double-wide sidewalk, I would encourage users to “look back” to see if a driver is about to turn into you before and during your journey through the crosswalk. As much as I hate that we have to do so, a simple glance to see if a car might be left-hooking into our path as we cross a driveway or roadway is a small and essential step, ensuring our safety. While we must continue to place the onus on drivers to be more aware, and on designers to create safer streets, we must concede that this will take time. In the meantime, let’s be sure to take this simple step so that we can protect ourselves.

Double wide sidewalks can be a valuable “meet half way” step in connecting a robust trail network. But the purpose of a connective trail is to provide those of us on two feet and two (or more) wheels a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience… most of all, one in which cars don’t pose a threat. Simply widening a sidewalk does little to achieve these goals. We must adapt traffic patterns and signaling if these efforts are to truly be considered a viable “improvement.”

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RTS Service Rollback. What It Means and What Now?

It has been a tough couple of weeks for the most vulnerable in our community.

crisis with school bus transportation in the City of Rochester threatened our children’s ability to return to school buildings. RTS stepped up to fill the gap and ensure secondary students could get to school. Given limited workforce resources, this required RTS to scale back its regular service.

Beginning today, September 13, seven RTS frequent routes will change from having 15-minute service to 30-minute service on weekdays. The impacted routes are: Joseph (3), Hudson (4), Portland (5), East Main (8), Monroe (11), Genesee (16) & Lake (22).

Please help us get the word out to RTS riders about this sudden change in service.

These service cuts will have a serious impact on people’s daily lives. Thousands of essential workers will have longer commutes. The transit dependent will have a harder time getting their groceries, accessing childcare and other essential services. The elderly will struggle more to pick up their medications and get to healthcare appointments.

We support the RTS decision to help address the immediate school transportation crisis. We also believe this community shouldn’t have to choose between getting our kids to school and providing adequate public transportation.

Reimagine RTS

So, now what?

    • More resources will help RTS restore service to previous levels as soon as possible. We urge our public officials at all levels of government — city, county, state and federal — to support our public transportation system and the people who rely on it by helping to secure that funding.
    • YOU can help by contacting your own representatives with the message that public transit is essential in the lives of people in our community, and service must be fully restored.
    • We at Reconnect Rochester will continue to work, alongside a coalition of grassroots partners, to advocate for funding for robust public transportation in Monroe County. We’ll continue to coordinate those efforts with RTS, the Amalgamated Transit Union that represents RTS workers, and transit advocates across New York State.

Thank you to RTS for answering the call and responding to this community crisis, as they have done throughout this pandemic with free fares and emergency transport services. Thanks especially to our essential RTS drivers who will make sacrifices with their own work schedules and routines to make this happen.

There is no way to sugar coat this. A rollback in service frequency — a hallmark of the Reimagine RTS system redesign that riders had just a few months to enjoy — is a step backwards.

Let’s work together to get us moving forward again.

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Rochester General Hospital Map (+ a Bonus)

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?


Presenting the fifth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to RGH within 20ish minutes on a bike or scooter. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding RGH, here’s Dr. Gerald Gacioch sharing his personal travel-by-bike experiences.

I am a doctor at RGH and have been biking to work for the past 15ish years. I am not comfortable riding before sunrise or after sunset (despite bright lights and neon clothing) so my bike to work season is usually late-April to mid-September. There is really nothing like the feeling I get when my workday starts with a ride instead of the usual car commute on 490 (cycling is sort of a cross between Rocky running up the library stairs and a tranquil Zen master). I live on the border of Pittsford and Fairport. My route is Rt 31 to Schoen Place to Rt 96 past Nazareth to Fisher, left onto East Ave (GREAT new bike lane!) to University to Culver to Norton and Portland. The whole way is very safe and now has a bike lane almost the entire route.

Lessons Learned

Here are some of the lessons I have learned from now hundreds of days of bike commuting:

    • Pick a safe route. I tested out several routes when I started biking to work on a Sunday when roads were pretty quiet. I have used the same route since then and I now know the timing of the lights, where the potholes are, where people drive weirdly, etc.
    • Check out an e-bike. Still a great workout when you want it to be, but lots of fun to blast up a hill with little effort sometimes. I can cut 10-15 minutes off my commute when on the e-bike.
    • Enjoy the ride and be in the moment.

Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards

One of the best things that Rochester has to offer in terms of bikeability is its ongoing Bicycle Boulevards implementation. Back in 2015, the City identified priority routes that could be used by cyclists to navigate the city. This year the City is implementing 20 miles of this network! Bike Boulevards are mostly residential side streets that parallel busy, sometimes intimidating roads. Over time, traffic calming measures like speed humps will be installed to slow down or even deter car traffic along these corridors, keeping the experience as comfortable as possible for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Wayfinding signage will also be added to help cyclists navigate. One of the best kept cycling secrets in Rochester is that you can use these routes now, even if they haven’t been technically converted to Bike Boulevards yet. See the purple dotted routes below.

As always, no quality level or amount of bike infrastructure will ever alleviate the need to have some basic traffic-negotiating skills under your belt. Sometimes biking on a major road is unavoidable for a block or two, and even if you stick to comfortable Bike Boulevards, you’ll still have to cross major streets. So stick to these general principles and if you want to get more comfortable and confident on your bike, take one of Reconnect Rochester’s classes sometime.

Biking (or scooting) to RGH along Bike Boulevards from the South, you get your own easy, private entrance to the complex! Northaven Terrace is a dead-end street for cars. But on your bicycle, just open the gate at the end and you’re there.

The Routes

This trip along low traffic, residential bike boulevards from North Winton Village is 3.6 miles (21 minutes by bike):

Here is a route biking (or scooting!) from the downtown Transit Center to RGH, primarily along Bike Boulevards. This is 3.3 miles, under 20 minutes! (TIP: Thomas Street, a great connection for cyclists wanting to avoid Joseph and Hudson Avenues, is one way between Upper Falls Boulevard and Clifford Avenue, so use the sidewalk for that brief section.)

Biking to RGH from the north above 104 is a little more challenging. Unless you can use the El Camino Trail to cross 104, as seen below, you’ll have to bike on Carter Street or Portland Avenue to approach the complex (Seneca Avenue is a less stressful alternative).

When you arrive on the campus, there are currently three places to lock your bike:

    1. Carter St Garage, where there is a locked bike cage (to gain access to it you go to the Parking Office located right in the garage near the entrance to the hospital).
    2. Portland Ave Garage, where there are bike racks next to security (stationed 24/7).
    3. Near the Emergency Department, where there are also bike racks.

RGH will soon be placing more bike racks by the main entrance. Cyclists can look forward to this custom bike rack in the shape of a stethoscope!


Bonus!

As a bonus, we’re throwing in a bike shed map of Rochester Regional’s other primary campus, Unity Hospital on the west side. Though outside the 20-minute scope for most people, Unity is approachable via the Erie Canal Trail from Spencerport, Gates, and the 19th Ward. It’s also not far from the City’s Maplewood Historic District. To get to Unity from Maplewood, we recommend taking Ridgeway to Latona to Welland, which takes you straight to the Unity entrance. Stay tuned for developments on the Eastman Trail, which will parallel Ridgeway Avenue. As you can see below, there are plans to connect these west side trails and we’re excited for that connectivity!

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The Road Ahead for Reconnect

Big developments are underfoot at Reconnect Rochester: a major gifta new path forward, and a leadership announcement. We want to share all the excitement with you!

A Gift of Great Magnitude

Many of you know Dr. Scott MacRae as a long-team leader in the cycling community and champion for active transportation as a key to community health. As past President of the Rochester Cycling Alliance (RCA), Dr. MacRae worked for many years alongside Richard DeSarra and others to urge improvements that have made our region a more bike friendly place.

When the RCA joined forces with Reconnect Rochester in 2019, Dr. MacRae was an enthusiastic supporter and made a financial commitment that allowed the combined organization to hire a dedicated Cycling Coordinator. Coming together has given our collective multi-modal efforts a huge boost as we have combined our person power, ideas and energy. 

We’re honored and humbled to announce that Dr. MacRae is doubling down on his investment with a transformative financial gift to further support and grow Reconnect Rochester’s mission.

This funding will help us continue our existing programs and advocacy work, and expand our staff capacity so we can do more and be more.

When asked what inspired his gift, Dr. MacRae shared: “Rochester has been very generous to me. This is a great opportunity to give back and honor my good friend, the late Richard DeSarra, who dedicated 25 years to making Rochester biking, walking and transit-friendly. As a lifelong cyclist, with an interest in health and quality of life, I hope to see a mature network of biking and walking friendly streets and trails for all to enjoy and travel safely on.”

Here’s Our Plan

Dr. MacRae’s gift couldn’t come at a more perfect time. A break in programming over the last year due to the pandemic allowed us the time to take a step back and set our future course. Over 10 months, our Board of Directors and a nine-member work group, including Dr. MacRae, worked to craft a Strategic Plan.

We had help along the way from all of you who took the time to share your perceptions and feedback through our stakeholder survey. Your ideas and encouragement were just what we needed.

We are happy to share with you Reconnect Rochester’s 2021-24 Strategic Plan. It’s our first ever, and we’re pretty proud of it.

We started with our destination. What do we want our organization and our community to look like in 25 years? We articulated the answer in a vision statement that captures our hopes and dreams. We hope you share them!

Hallmarks of the plan include expanding our staff capacity, strengthening our influence and community presence, and centering mobility justice in our work.

We extend deep thanks to the ESL Charitable Foundation for the financial support that allowed us to do this, and Mary Hadley at Causewave Community Partners for her expert facilitation of the process.

Interim Leader Appointment

With all this growth and excitement will also come change, and change can be hard. An effort that began with a small group of passionate community activists back in 2009 is evolving into a larger, more structured effort. Retaining the energy and involvement of all those who have played a part in the organization’s success, while bringing in more capacity and expertise in staff positions, will be a delicate balance to achieve.

We’re thrilled to announce that Mary Staropoli, MPA, has been appointed Interim Executive Director to lead the organization through this period of growth and transition.

Mary’s five years with the organization as the Director of Planning & Development and 20+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector uniquely position her to help guide us on the road ahead.

Mary will lead an all-star staff team that includes Cycling Coordinator Jesse Peers and Development & Communications Specialist Monika Reifenstein, and we plan to”power up” with some additional staffing in the fall.

We don’t know exactly what’s around the corner, but we hope that you all will be in our corner. We will always need collective energy to keep driving change in our community — one street, one mind, one trip at a time.


Vision Statement

Reconnect Rochester will work tirelessly to make our community a place where everyone can easily and safely get around, regardless of age, ability, income or mode of transportation. We will help shift our community’s priorities to place people first, rehumanize our streets and integrate them with our neighborhoods.

We will connect transportation to equity, health, the economy and the environment. We will educate our community leaders and boldly advocate for a transportation system that provides mobility options and resource access for everyone. Reconnect Rochester’s work will help combat poverty, reduce climate change, improve the health and well-being of people in our community, and bolster our local economy.

We will inspire and empower people to use various modes of transportation and experience the joy and freedom of getting around by bus, by rail, on bike or on foot. We will educate, motivate and amplify community efforts to call for equitable and safe streets in our neighborhoods.

We will be the leading local advocacy organization and recognized source for transportation facts and knowledge. We will highlight national mobility trends and ideas to inspire our community about what’s possible. We will have a seat at every table where transportation decisions are made and will hold government and local leaders accountable.

Funders will want to invest in Reconnect Rochester because they hold trust in our organization and see clear evidence of our impact. Community partners will seek to collaborate with us to work toward our shared goals.

We will work with community leaders and decision-makers to create a region renowned for a robust transportation network made up of people-centric streets and public transit that integrates rather than segregates.